I told my friend and photographer, Francois Booyens that we shouldn’t get our hopes up for cool photos. There’s a supremely thin line between cool-dodgy and just-plain-dodgy dodgy of course... But Santarama Miniland in Rosettenville exceeded our expectations – in that this-is-so-absurd-we’re-going-to-Instagram-the-dinges-out-of-this-place kind of way (like Francois said).
The Jan van Riebeeck statue at the gate is a huge clue to what awaits... After buying tickets from the friendly guy in blue overalls, you go past a mini train setup (not working), some coin-operated kiddie rides (probably working) and some furry fury in the form of King Kong. And then, Miniland is revealed in all its oddness.
Here, Jaws and a huge statue of Michael Jackson are featured with a time warp of scruffy mini South African buildings. Famous ones like the government buildings in Tshwane and dubious ones like the Parker Pen factory (its presence probably related to a sponsorship way back). A walkway, almost overgrown in many places, takes you through South Africa – from the Oliver Tambo runway to Kimberley’s Groot Gat – and past a replica of a rickety Dromedaris (a full circle nod to Jan at the gate).
With an undeniable Life after People vibe, the clock has stopped here – probably in the 1980s. However, someone has tried to bring some of the dilapidated displays up to date with signs in wobbly letters. Those sign-writing attempts, my photocopied map of the place and the prominence of things like Jan and the Dromedaris at a tourist attraction – in 2013 – made me feel quite… sad, I guess.
In addition to the sights, you can play putt-putt and go on mini-train and ferry rides for the R35 entrance fee. And despite the shabbiness, weed invasion and out of date features, coming here actually makes a difference. Santarama Miniland was established by the South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA) in 1973 to assist with its funding. Miniland’s website notes: “Each visitor to this attraction in Johannesburg assists in their own small way to the fight against TB.”
So, there’s that and the cool photos. And I must admit, my inner-child didn’t care too much about the dodginess. She had visions of pushing little cars on the little streets between the little buildings – and then more sinisterly, being a mayhem-causing monster-giant in Joburg, Cape Town, Durban... Miniland needs an update though – urgently.
Thank you, Francois for being my photographer for the morning and finding your inner monster-giant too (check the last photo)!