Day 3: Origins Centre, Wits Art Museum, and Downtown Joburg

We woke up to another sunny but chilly Jozi day as we piled into our beloved van and hopped around the corner to the Origins Centre on the University of Witswatersrand campus. There we were greeted by veteran Chief Tour Guide Brian Mogaki for a torrential downpour of information.  Brian seems to know everything: medicinal uses of local plants, museum history, exhibition design, San rock art, initiation rituals in various cultures, naming patterns, religious texts, oral traditions, and how to teach everyone about the origins of mankind, from the distinguished visitor to the dedicated security staff.

Brains spinning, we had a short lunch in the sun to warm up before wandering through campus (past beaming graduates in their caps and gowns) to the Wits Art Museum.  Housed in a brand new building knitted together from four different buildings, we met with Special Projects Curator, Fiona Rankin-Smith.  Escorting us up to the sparkling new board room, Fiona narrated the history of the museum from it’s earliest beginnings as a teaching collection, through challenges of limited space, encroaching cafés, and exploding toilets, to the spring opening of the new building.  She generously gave us a tour of the storage spaces, despite the fact that they were still in the midst of unpacking their collection, before leaving us to explore the beautiful collection. We had a rare reflective moment as we worked on a short drawing activity about positive and negative space. 

Eager to get out of the van, we set off on foot to wander through downtown Johannesburg.  Past bustling transport stops, Pick’N Pay, street-side vendors, office workers rushing to catch a taxi home, vegetable sellers, and tiny tables filled with brightly covered candies, we made our way through the city.  A couple stops for keys and clothes were met with warm welcomes from shop keepers excited to ask where we were from.

The smog made for a purple-tinged sunset as we made our way back to the van–another successful day in Johannesburg.