FUTURE JOHANNESBURG | Voices of the City: Sarah Britten

 ‘there’s a drive and a self-belief that is inspiring’

Y&R Labstore  Photographs for Y&R in October 2014 by Jeremy Glyn

Our voice of the city this week is a lipstick artist, blogger, author and communication strategist.

Future-Joburg-11Voices of the City is a weekly feature that spotlights the everyday lives of our citizens, living and working in the city. By asking the same five questions to all our interviewees, we discover not only how our experiences of the city differ, but also what we share. It is a daunting task to try and capture the diverse experiences of our city’s inhabitants, but we feel that it is a worthy, and necessary, endeavor, in order to better understand the present and future of our city. 

This week we meet Sarah BrittenBritten explores questions of national identity, having completed her PhD thesis, One Nation, One Beer: The Mythology of the New South Africa in Advertising. She has published several books including The Art of the South African Insult (2006). She writes regularly for Thought Leader, a news and opinion website run by the Mail and Guardian.

Q: What inspires you the most about Johannesburg? 

Johannesburg’s endless energy inspires me the most. From the spectacular summer storms I never get tired of painting, to the people who flock here from the rest of the continent in search of a better life, to the taxi drivers and the guys doing deals over whisky, there’s a drive and a self-belief that is inspiring.

Q: Do you have a secret space or place that you enjoy in the city?.

I love the stables at the Sandton Field and Study Centre, where I feed the horses carrots. It’s a little piece of the country in the most unexpected place. Every time I shop at the Pick n Pay on Nicol I can see the stables from the parking lot, and it reminds me to visit. I love animals and feeling connected with them in an urban space.

Q: What was the last exciting event you attended in the city?

This past Saturday was exciting. I attended veteran journalist Joe Thloloe’s wedding at the Wilgespruit NG Kerk. He was imprisoned by the apartheid state, so I was enchanted by the contrast of it all – an NG Kerk! –  and the symbolism. And by the fact that he was getting married at 72. Later that night, my husband and I went to the etv party at Gold Reef City, a theme park interpretation of Johannesburg’s history, before heading to Atlas Studios for the 40th birthday of actor and director Akin Omotoso. He is the distinctive voice of YFM, Joburg’s biggest youth radio station. Johannesburg is full of energy and fascinating people. It’s the people that make the place.

Q: What frustrates you about the city?

Traffic, mainly. Sitting in our cars, we are both exposed to each other and isolated from each other. Joburg is a city of cars, and this is the key to our particular neuroses. We are drawn to the freedom offered by the car, so there’s a certain irony in the fact that the instrument of our freedom also traps us.

QYou can have dinner with one person living or dead. Who is it and why?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I visited the home he lived in in Vienna earlier this year, and I’m fascinated by the person behind the myth of the genius. I play the piano so fell in love with Mozart’s music early in life, then saw Amadeus in the 80s. So I’m intrigued by a character who resonates through history, who created beauty and who seemed to be so flawed. (But entertainingly so.)

You can follow Sarah on Twitter: @Anatinus

For more voices: Biénne Huisman                 Ishay Govender-Ypma               Anja van der Spuy