Dlala Nje – Walking tour of Hillbrow, Johannesburg

Dlala Nje is a name that you all should get acquainted with. It might not be a name that roles off the tongue for some, but it will be something that you will love for its work, passion, and inner city commitment to empowering the people.

Dlala Nje

To give you a bit of background about Dlala Nje, you need to look at its two co-founders, Nickolaus Bauer and Michael Luptak. The two friends, both fell in love with the idea of living in Ponte City after Nickolaus, a journalist by trade, was sent on assignment to explore the area. For the last two years the pair have each called Ponte home, both enjoying this view from their 51st floor apartments

View from Ponte

Its breathtaking and you can see how regardless of work stress, love drama or otherwise, looking out at this view every morning would bring you such a sense of calm.

The two have wholeheartedly embraced their surroundings and give back to the community in so many ways.

For starters, the Community Centre, based in Ponte City has become a haven for local kids to come and enjoy a host of educational activities and fun games.

They also work hard to give back to the community that has embraced them through a host of charity endeavours like blanket drives and an Easter Egg hunt for the kids for the upcoming holiday.

Walking tours

A way for them to fund their endeavours comes in the form of walking tours which they host through the streets of the inner city. You can tell though by the passion and enthusiasm they show when taking people on the tour, that it has become more than just a fundraising endeavour, but a way to educate and enlighten folk on how the inner city really is like. Dispelling the myths and breaking the barriers for people who might never have thought going into the inner city was possible.

Main street HillbrowOn 15 March, a group of mates and I embarked on this adventure that took us to Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville in Johannesburg. Now I must admit that the most time prior to this, which I had spent in the inner city, had been either driving to Coca Cola Park (Ellis Park) to watch rugby or going to the Joburg Theatre to watch a show.

The tour started with us heading into Ponte City. As we drove up, this daunting building lay before us, it’s a building you frequently see in the Jozi skyline, it’s a fixture that all who live here know about, and used on posters for tourists to identify the city with. But for most of us, it’s not somewhere we have actually thought about heading into.

Ponte Tower in Hillbrow

Listening to Nickolaus give us a history of Ponte City is incredible. It has such an illustrious history but at the same time a tragic one too. Today, through initiatives like Dlala Nje though, its future is looking a lot brighter than its history once was.

Nickolaus

You can’t but look up in awe, open-mouthed and wide-eyed at the sheer stature of the Ponte Tower.

At the foot of PonteA lot has been done to clean up the six-story high rubbish that once lay sprawled out on the floor of the building, but you still unfortunately see some unsightly objects on the floor. Nickolaus tells of a funny story of where he once narrowly escaped being hit in the head by a dirty diaper.

Exploring in PonteBut you get an immediate sense after touring the building that the residents who now call it home, really are trying to make a difference and make it a respectable home for their children and families to live in. The building management are working hard to maintain certain rules and restrictions that the residents are respecting.

Ponte City

As you walk through the bustling streets of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville, you realise just how many people call these areas home. Vendors line the main street selling the most delicious looking fresh fruit and vegetables, some live chickens and a whole lot of Mopane worms. I wasn’t brave enough to try one, but some of the international tourists on the tour did look rather fascinated by them.

Local vendorsYou also get a sense of the city of old through many of the building structures that still stand; the once popular spots for the Jozi elite that frequented the CBD in the 70s.

The Park Lane Hotel

There are also some beautiful new artworks on display and staples to the city like the oldest brothel in town (Summit) that you can’t ignore. The same building once was also occupied by a men’s water polo team.

ArtworkThe Summit and the old Water Polo clubLike Ponte, other formidable buildings that we passed along the way included the Hillbrow Tower.

Hillbrow TowerOne of my favourite parts of the walk was coming up to what Nickolaus calls the “offline version of GumTree“. For one, this literally is a wall sprawled with adverts on just about anything and everything you could be looking for, but funnily enough, all of the adverts are in fact also stuck down with gum.

Offline GumtreeA funny moment on the tour worth sharing was when we got to one part of the tour and realised that two of the American tourists had wandered off. Not too long after the tourists emerged with McDonalds packets in hand. You come all the way to Jozi SA only to eat American-style French Fries, seriously! It did gives us locals a bit of a laugh 🙂

While we waited for our American friends to reappear it did give us time to sit back and watch, watch how the locals interacted and then also to interact with some of them ourselves.

Taking it all inThe tour ended with a trip to a local Shabeen (pub for you international folk out there). Now I’m not a big beer drinker, but as they say “when in Rome…” I decided to go with the flow and order a Black Label (“Zamalek“). It was a pretty humid and hot day, so the cold drink was refreshing to say the least. And in the end to sit down with the group, chat about what we just all experienced and again, mingle with some of the locals was such a special moment. We also got to talk to some of the locals about who they were supporting in the upcoming soccer match later that day against Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates (Soweto Derby) – It’s always a subject that proves a very heated debate for some. *Kaizer Chiefs beat Orlando Pirates 1-0 by the way.

Sonnyboy's Bottle Store and ShabeenBlack Label BeerI left with a huge smile on my face, knowledge in mind and a heart filled with joy at what I had experienced. It really is something that all who are planning a visit to Johannesburg should pencil in their diaries to do. And for all of you who call Joburg home, and are looking for something different and enlightening to do on your weekend, Dlala Nje walking tours should be a must on the weekend plans.

The tour in brief:

  • R180 incl. a drink.
  • 10:30 to about 13:30.
  • No prior knowledge of the area is required.
  • Bring a camera, smiles and some cash if you want to buy some produce from the local vendors.

Be a part of the change, contribute to the Dlale Nje movement and make a difference in the Jozi community.

Be apart of the change, share the Jozi loveFor more information about Dlala Nje and the incredible work they are doing please get in contact them:

  • http://www.dlalanje.org/
  • https://www.facebook.com/DlalaNje
  • https://twitter.com/DlalaNje

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