O, Pretoria!

These days I work, not in downtown Toronto, but in Pretoria, Gauteng – administrative capital of South Africa, a small city with Boer Republic roots and an African feel, a place of substantial Anglo-Dutch architecture from the nineteenth century commingled with brutalist Afrikaner buildings from the 1970s, and the litter, taxi mayhem and crumbling sidewalks of Maputo or (who knows, since I haven’t been there) Nairobi.

I go there, most days, by Gautrain, the gleaming Bombardier-built high-speed commuter train that links Johannesburg with Pretoria and the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Most days, since I try to travel outside of rush hour, the train is half empty; sometimes, however, especially late afternoon, it is crammed with office workers, students, travellers and of course the ubiquitous (in South Africa) security guards.

The whole experience is strange and familiar, simultaneously – first world and third world shaken and stirred in some Afro-European cocktail, with all kinds of ingredients – edgy, clamorous, a clash of poverty and wealth, modernity and marginalisation, that makes you want to look away, and look back again.

I’ve decided to do some looking, so here is a photograph, snapped (that is the word) on my iPhone, on the train one morning to bustling Pretoria. More will follow, mostly likely from the Leica.

Gautrain # 1