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19 Jan

An Art Deco Whisper

New years resolutions are still fresh in our minds, and my very generic ideal to say ‘yes’ to so much more this year has had a rocky start. Venturing out of my comfort zone doesn’t come naturally to me.





Whilst brave (I like to think) I am the oxford dictionary antithesis of adventurous, I married up in that department. In the spirit of ‘yes’, I agreed to a truffle pig mission deep into the maize triangle in search of a bygone era. South Africa’s vast beauty and seemingly endless secrets shouldn’t still surprise me, but a speckling of Art Deco buildings reminiscent of the iconic pastel glamour of Miami definitely did.




What strikes one about Springs is her forgotten quality. There is no conflicted struggle here between development and preservation, rather a quiet crumbling, a slow decent into obscurity. One can almost hear the Charleston and Jazz fading through the porthole windows. As remnants of 30’s glamour and inter-war exuberance fade.




Stark and run down, these buildings stand holding their charm and elegance as best they can. It’s now a treasure hunt between brothels that spill onto the street, haberdasheries and small Aladdin’s cave-like stores run by armed, ominous looking men. Buildings inspired by Severini, Dali, Picasso and Braque are the prize.




It is strange to think that surges in design and technology like radio, motion pictures and aeroplanes bore this style. Now the ashes of a cruel government followed by a corrupt council have taken their toll.




If social sciences ‘Wilson & Kelling’ broken window theory has any merit, then how can entire buildings in disrepair not have a catastrophic effect on a neighbourhood. The reserved, industrial art deco style of the facades, parapets and finials on these buildings will eventually be lost. This Art Deco love child will be forgotten, along with the prospects of a once modern and geometric town.




I wanted to be able to tell you that it’s a lovely drive, that you should invest a Saturday afternoon in our national pastime of padkos and exploration. I wanted to use words like charming and nostalgic. I wanted to offer an alternative to a certain town that shall not be mentioned but whose culture I deplore. I have far too much respect for all of you though, to filter and crop and sugar-coat this town. Spare a thought for her dwindling history, but take a wander in another direction.




We know that the African spirit is irrepressible and so our hope and parting wish for Springs, is that her beautiful custodians, her community, her heartbeat, fight for her and for themselves.





Jessica Bennetto
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