The skeleton, horse race and postman
The Rissik Street Post Office in the Johannesburg CBD is quiet.
Only the bare ‘bones’ remain of the iconic clock. Most window frames are without – you guessed it – windows. The leftovers of fires are still showing. Inside, layers of paint are peeling. An administrasie sticker seems misplaced in a falling-apart office with parquet tiles scattered everywhere. The floor boards are at best dodgy.
Yet, she (yes, I’ve decided she’s a lady) is quietly standing her ground – despite her age (her ‘birth year’ is 1897), the neglect, and the awesomely maintained Gauteng legislature sticking out its tongue at her from the other side.
The building has apparently stood empty since the mid-1990s. Now, there is hope that she’ll get some TLC – finally and for real. According to Nikki Brink, project manager from KHB Consulting, the Post Office will be turned into offices and work is planned to start early in 2014. Heritage approval needs to be obtained before the restoration can begin though. I'm holding thumbs that everything will work out!
It will probably mean the urban art inside will go, but I don’t think the artists will mind. After all, street art is often not created with permanence in mind.
One piece is from the amazing Hannelie Coetzee*, who did a site-specific engraving in the surface of the plaster as part of her exploration into her own heritage in the city. It’s off her grandfather, who started his career as a postman in 1914. He became one of the post office big wigs and quite involved in political stuff. The engraving is quite hidden, but visible from the street through an open door at the back.
Another is a graffiti-ish painting of racing horses in one of the massive – and very dark – chambers (I don’t know who the artist or artists are). When we retouched the photo, we realised just how wow it is!
* I’ll be writing about Hannelie soon, so keep an eye out!
(All photos by Best-est Husband, Robin Turner)