Ask a Local: #MyJoburg by James Delaney

The best way to get to know Joburg is to hang out with an insider. In our new Ask a Local series we chat to some of our favourite Joburg city people to get the lowdown on what makes Joburg unique.

This week artist James Delaney gives us his take on the city.

JAMES DELANEY is an artist, who features downtown Joburg’s buildings and ghosts prominently in his work. He is also known by a lot of Joburgers as ‘the guy who fixed up The Wilds’, a 40 acre forested park on the edge of the inner city. Follow his work on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @delaneyartist and on his website

What brought you to Joburg and makes you stay here?
My parents moved here when I was a child, but later I studied in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town, lived in England and Germany, and gravitated back. Family, friends, climate and the exhilaration of working in Joburg keep me here.

Favourite Joburg suburb?
Lorentzville, where my studio is, which is a tumbling down century-old suburb but full of interesting people – and layers of history from the waves of immigrants who have made it their home. It presents interesting material to the artist’s eye.

One thing no one would expect to hear about Joburg?
That downtown Joburg is like a museum of architecture – Art Deco, Modernist, Neoclassical, Victorian, Brutalist – with impressive grandeur.

Photo courtesy Victoria Yards

The most underrated Joburg sight or experience?
Victoria Yards, because there’s something quite magical about the place. It’s a collection of studios for artists and makers – but walk past the textured old buildings and through the vegetable gardens, seeing how these spaces are being reimagined by creative minds – visitors feel inspired and awed.

Favourite after-work hangout?
Bellinis in Illovo is a classic – a simple menu which has hardly changed in 20 years, and nice people. You have to get there early as they don’t take bookings. When I have friends from out of town, it’s Urbanologi, for the cool design of the place, craft beer tasting and innovative food.

Favourite place to shop?
Herbert Evans for art materials, Holmes Bros for t-shirts, Bridge Books downtown for gifts.

Outside Bridge Books on Commissioner Street. Photo by Phileen Lutge via #JoziWalks

Favourite restaurant or cafe?
Craft Coffee is hidden below the highway in Newtown in an historic industrial building. It’s more coffee roaster than coffee shop so it’s quiet, and calm, and close to Bag Factory studios where I make my lithographs.

If you didn’t live in Joburg where would you like to live and why?
In a simple house deep in the African bushveld, as I love trees and the peace of wilderness.

Favourite place to relax in the city?
The Wilds. It’s green, and peaceful, and you feel like you’re far from the city. It has extraordinary plant and bird life, and I get time there to look at my sculptures (there are about 100 now) and plan new ones.

James’s dog Pablo exploring The Wilds at sunset (photo by James Delaney)

On weekends you’ll find me …. In my studio at Victoria Yards, or working in The Wilds.

Best things about Joburg: The weather, light, trees and architecture.
Worst things about Joburg: Materialism, and impatient people in big cars.

3 things a visitor should not leave Joburg without experiencing:
Downtown’s architecture and graffiti, The Constitutional Court and its art collection and vibrant Sundays in Maboneng.

Top tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg: A walking tour downtown followed by lunch at Urbanologi.

Three words that describe this city …. Unexpected, extreme, complex.

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