Sputniks, squirrels, skeletons and sculpture gardens: Joburg has it all this June

gateway to spaceFrom space travel, to wild-life photography, to outdoor sculpture to the workings of the human body – four blockbuster exhibitions are currently showing in Johannesburg. Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse currently has guests staying who are amazed by the current Joburg offerings – they are so pleased they are staying in such central accommodation and are making sure they get to all of these exhibitions.

Gateway to Space opens today 1st June at Sandton Convention Centre and will show until 31 July.  Exhibits include the first space craft; a battery operated space vehicle that transports astronauts around the moon; Yuri Gargarin’s 1961 space suit; a space shuttle cockpit; space food; moon rock and lots more besides. There are at least 40 explanatory videos and an interactive space area. Tickets for adults are R180; under 18s R120; Seniors R150 (weekdays only).

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre Newtown

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre Newtown

At Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown until 30th June is Body Worlds showing Dr Gunther von Hagens’ plastinated bodies.  Don’t be put off by the fact that these are real bodies and actual body parts on display – their presentation is in no way macabre or sensationalized and you won’t feel squeamish at all.   (Apparently there is an oversupply of people wanting to donate their bodies for this kind of educational initiative). When I visited the exhibition, there were busloads of school children leaving. What an opportunity to learn about biology and the human body in an absorbing and fascinatingly direct way.

Tickets are R140 for adults, R110 for seniors and students, R90 for the young  between 6 and 17 and R400 for a family booking. For more see www.jhblive/events/dead_bodies_everywhere/13695

Fox Junction before any development and upgrade

Fox Junction an amazing industrial heritage site, before any development and upgrade


Remaining in the city centre, there is another international exhibition of a completely different order: Wildlife Photography of the Year is currently on a global tour from London’s Natural History Museum. Showing at Fox Junction 1 Main St (further south of Newtown and formerly Sheds@1Fox), this exhibition showcases some of the very best wildlife photography taken around the world during the past year and includes all the winning images and finalists from the 2015 awards. On until 31st July. Entrance is R50 with children under 6 free.





Nirox 010

And if you want to get out into the country away from the urban buzz, (only 45 minutes from Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse) the grounds at Nirox Foundation are quite sublime and they are only open to the public when there is an event or an exhibition.  So make the most of  Nirox’ winter sculpture exhibition A Place in Time (until 30th July) curated by Helen Phebey, Curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The best news of all is that entrance is free. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy some wonderful art works and a breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful landscape setting out in the Cradle of Humankind.

Desperate for things to do with children over school holidays (schools break up on 24th June)?  You can see there’s lots for locals and tourists to do during these shorter winter Jozi days. (And watch this space for more kids holiday activities.)

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Liz’s Pick of the Week 15th May

5 15 May Kingsmead Book FairIf you didn’t get to Franschhoek for the annual literary festival this May, and can’t make the UCT summer school, the next best thing (well nearly the next best thing) is the one day event locally in Rosebank : The Kingsmead Book Fair this Saturday 21st May.  Admittedly there are no mountains, vineyards and Cape Dutch gables …. but it will be a day packed with debate, discussion and dissection of all things literary, cultural, social and political. Registration for the day is R50 and sessions (R50 per session) start at 10. There are 6  time slots with multiple panel discussions in each session, so it’s really difficult to make decisions about which to attend.  There is something for everybody with panels on the state of the SA economy, on ‘state capture’, water security, the Rwandan genocide; the status of SA cricket; stories from survivors of rape, kidnapping and hostage-taking; renowned authors, film-makers and playwrights discussing their craft; visual artists in conversation; chefs and authors of recipe books demonstrating and sharing their love of food; and much more besides.

For the full programme see http://kingsmead.co.za/bookfair/programme-2016/ There is limited space for sessions and many get booked up so make sure you book in advance.

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Liz’s Pick of the Week: Movies with a difference

05 8 May Film Festival05 8 May Film Festival Prog

As the colder weather sneaks up on us, it’s an ideal time to take yourselves off to Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank, the ‘arthouse’ movie theatre.  Until next Sunday 15th May there are showings of 11 foreign films as part of the European Film Festival.  All, except for the award winning British movie Amy (about the life of Amy Winehouse), are subtitled.  There are only 2 showings of each movie so check the programme and the film descriptions  http://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/schedule-venues/?  There are documentary and feature films many of which have been selected for awards in their home countries so there’s a wide choice of quality productions.

Robert DevereuxAlso showing is Donizetti’s Robert Devereux, the third in the composer’s trilogy of Tudor Queen operas. I had to check who the other Tudor Queens were and, as always, Google came to the rescue:

Donizetti never thought of his three operas about Tudor queens as a trilogy and scarcely anyone else did either until the soprano Beverly Sills sang them at the New York City Opera in the 1970s. Each with a libretto by a different author, they were premiered over a seven-year period (1830-1837) in different Italian theaters, with different singers as the royal protagonists: Giuditta Pasta (“Anna Bolena”), Maria Malibran (“Maria Stuarda” and Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis (Elizabeth I in “Roberto Devereux”).   The stories, familiar from both history and literary fabrications, are far apart chronologically. Yet each culminates in an execution — Anne Boleyn’s in 1536 at the behest of her husband, Henry VIII, for, among other things, alleged infidelity; Mary Stuart’s in 1587 because of the threat she posed to Elizabeth I’s rule; and Robert Devereux’s in 1601, for treason. At the heart of each plot are one or more love triangles, whether rooted in reality or invented.  [ Loomis, 17 Sept 2013 New York Times]

Sondra Radvanovsky is the first person to repeat Sills’ 1970s challenge of singing all three of Donizetti’s Tudor queens in the course of a single season.  I recently saw Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly and apart from the extraordinary voices and achingly beautiful sets, the acting was sublime. It’s one of the extraordinary privileges of seeing a film screening of an opera – one can see facial expressions and body language in minute and close-up detail. (What an extra challenge for the performers.)   The preview of Robert Devereux  gives a taste of Ravanovksy’s extraordinary performance as the ageing Queen: poignant, powerful and tragic. Polenzani, the amazing Elīna Garanča and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien all give superb performances.   The last screening is on 19th May so don’t miss it.

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