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Joburg launch of 'The Blinded City' by Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon on July 20

14 July 2022 - 11:07
Join author Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon in conversation with Christa Kuljian for the Joburg launch of 'The Blinded City' on July 20.
Join author Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon in conversation with Christa Kuljian for the Joburg launch of 'The Blinded City' on July 20.
Image: Supplied



One of the best works of narrative non-fiction to emerge from the country in years. Quite simply brilliant. — NIREN TOLSI

Amid evictions, raids, killings, the drug trade and fire, inner-city Johannesburg residents seek safety and a home. A grandmother struggles to keep her granddaughter as she is torn away from her. A mother seeks healing in the wake of her son’s murder. And, displaced by the city’s drive for urban regeneration, a group of blind migrants try to carve out an existence.

The Blinded City recounts the history of the inner city from 2010 to 2019, primarily from the perspectives of the unlawful occupiers of spaces known as hijacked buildings, bad buildings or dark buildings. Tens of thousands of residents, both South African and foreign nationals, live in these buildings in dire conditions. This book tells the story of these sites and the court cases around them, which strike at the centre of who has the right to occupy the city.

In February 2010, while Joburg prepared for the Fifa World Cup, the South Gauteng high court ordered the eviction of the unlawful occupiers of an abandoned carpet factory on Saratoga Avenue and that the city’s metropolitan municipality provide temporary emergency accommodation for the evicted. The case, which became known as Blue Moonlight and went to the Constitutional Court, catalysed a decade of struggles over housing and eviction in Joburg.

The Blinded City chronicles this case, among others, and the aftermath — a tumultuous period in the city characterised by recurrent dispossessions, police and immigration operations, outbursts of xenophobic violence, and political and legal change. All through the decade, there is the backdrop of successive mayors and their attempts to “clean up” the city, and the struggles of residents and urban housing activists for homes and a better life. The interwoven narratives present a compelling mosaic of life in post-apartheid Joburg, one of the world’s most infamous and vital cities.

Article provided by Pan Macmillan


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