11 February 2011

Gold in Graphite - Jozi Sketchbook (Somayya A.E. & Zafrica Cabral)

You know, book reviewers get a bit jaded sometimes. It happens. It happens to all of us eventually – not just the real skeptics like me. And when we get jaded, we feel blasé about books that publicists rave about, before we’ve even seen them.

But then, like the one green Smartie left in the box, something special comes along. And, as we unfold the flap of the envelope or cut the plastic tape on the box, we start to feel an unmistakable sense of surprised delight. ‘Hey! This looks pretty good.’

When we finally open the book in question, and it really is pretty good, well – that’s wonderful. Why the long back-story? Because Gold in Graphite – Jozi Sketchbook (Impressions of Johannesburg through Sketch & Prose) is just such a treat.

Gold in Graphite – Jozi Sketchbook is an upbeat portrayal of the city. A collection of frozen moments in which the city’s original masterpieces - some dilapidated, some forgotten, some unknown – are captured by a single artist in stark black and white.

Among these (50-odd) are the original Park Station, Carlton Centre, the Rissik Street Post Office, the Oriental Plaza, the Orlando Cooling Towers, Astor Mansions, Ponte City Apartments, Gandhi’s House, Mai Mai Muti Market and Northcliff Ridge.

Stunning, really. The only negative thing I have to say is that I don’t like the typefaces used. Any of them. The layout, the artwork, the words and the paper are so deeply classy – so appropriate – that the fonts just seem brash to me. But that’s me.

The artist is Zafrica Cabral. Born in Johannesburg, he has worked in the city as a construction worker, Ellis Park snack vendor, flea market salesman, fitness instructor, designer, model builder and architectural technologist.

The supporting text was written by somayya a.e, who completed a BA with majors in English and Social Anthropology and punctuated her studies by exploring the wonders of language, food and culture. She lives in the City of Gold.

Pseudonymas notwithstanding, Zafrica Cabral and somayya a.e. are otherwise known as Zubair Hassem and Somayya Essack, a married couple with two small children. And they have collaborated for the past year on this fascinating book, producing what they believe is the first sketchbook of buildings in Joburg.

Something else you should know about Gold in Graphite is that its foreword, penned by poet Dr Don Mattera, is more than a mere introduction. It is a lullaby.

“The City has changed dramatically…so much so that the new must give credit to the old; where today’s Jozi came from must inform the journey ahead… No room for moping and pining: people must extol Johannesburg’s right to exist as a world-class city…as well as…a centre of…coexistence for peace, progress and prosperity.”

I adore this book and, while I’m not a coffee table book person, it proudly adorns my coffee table. You should own one. But before you do, there is one thing you should know: you will want these sketches for your walls, where you can see them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read this book and I have to admit that it really is awesome... I'm a proud owner. The sketches are wonderful and the text accompanies it perfectly. Fantastic book...and good review.