The editor of Classic Wine, a new bi-monthly magazine for South African wine-lovers, asked me to write an article on "inner-city sights" in Johannesburg (to run with a complementary piece on Cape Town). Never mind that the Cape is obviously more wine- and tourism-oriented than my home town ... I also found myself asking, Where is Joburg's "inner city"?
Nobody knows where the Johannesburg city centre is any more.
In Cape Town, the “City Bowl”, the “CBD” and the “inner city” are concentric circles – and, thanks to the mountains and the sea, things will stay like that indefinitely. In Durban, Port Elizabeth and smaller coastal cities, the geographical limitations are less severe, yet the high-rise buildings still cluster towards the shore. Heck, even in Bloemfontein and Pretoria there is consensus about where to go when you’re alone and life is making you lonely (“Downtown”, of course).
But in Joburg, as Ivan Vladislavic writes, the boundaries are forever “drifting away, lodging in tenuous places, slipping again” – which means that the centre is always shifting too. I’ve been known, after some creative calculation (and a few glasses of wine), to claim that my house is in the exact centre of the greater Johannesburg megalopolis; yet it’s also slap-bang in the middle of suburbia and, I can assure you, we don’t get any tourists there.