Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg


Space. Veld. Geometry.

After the fall of apartheid gambling was no longer restricted to the easily accessible homelands like Bophuthatswana or the Ciskei, and a very desirable gambling license was available for Johannesburg. It came with a condition: the winning bidder had to provide the capital for a large project of non-commercial nature. Akani Egoli was the winning bidder, and no expense was spared in the construction of the Apartheid Museum.

Apartheid Museum

After having had the soil rehabilitated, Watson started reconstructing veld. He is a lover and fundi of plants (not a given in the landscaping industry). Hyparrhenia hirta, the common thatching grass, forms a mainstay of the veld, as it takes to disturbed soil. But he knows veld is far from only grass: there are the low-profile herbaceous plants and bulbs, with a grass aloe here and there. The photos here were taken in mid-December (high summer); only in winter are the various species of flowering grass aloe visible in this man-made veld.

Along the rows of lawn and veld grass, there are also rows of ‘weeds’: the lowly familiars of our veld, Berkheya, Hypoxis, Senecio and Helichrysum species. ‘‘I have chosen essentially yellow veld flowers. I have an instinctive love of yellow and this is Wordsworthian in a way,” Watson has told Urban Green File. I’d imagine it took some persuasion of the gardeners for these plants to have their own flower beds. (A neat post-apartheid metaphor, amidst the rows of segregated vegetation.)

Watson created focal points with shrubs rescued from Johannesburg’s incessant development, like the Hoëveldbloubos (Diospyros lycioides, Highveld bluebush), poking in front of the photo above.

Watson is a busy man, working on hotel gardens in the Seychelles and at a famous hotel in the Western Cape where he’s ‘‘pulling out the Dietes they spent R40 million on putting in” to rehabilitate the original and now endangered renosterveld. He is also an autodidact; he lets himself be led by landscape.