No man, I wasn’t! Not like that. Many people still associate downtown Johannesburg with crime, grit and danger. But Joburg is changing; there is a tidal wave of creativity, fashion, food and hipsterness gathering momentum. Places like Newtown, Maboneng and Braamfontein are leading the way towards a brighter future, and at the current speed of development Joburg will be a city destination in its own right very soon! But desperate poverty, and a multitude of the social ills that go with it, is still the reality for many that call this part of the city home. Iwasshot in Joburg is a project that is doing wonderful work by using the positive energy of creativity to fight social problems.
The project was started in Hillbrow, one of the inner city’s most deprived areas, in 2009 to provide a platform for former street children to generate an income. In the words of the founder, Bernard Viljoen, “I wanted to use my photographic skills and talent, and give of my time and resources to make a positive contribution to and enrich the lives of kids who might otherwise not have had the exposure nor the opportunity to develop their own photographic skills and talent. Teaching and enabling them to see the world through different eyes. Teaching them to look, to see, to compose, to capture what it is they see in a such a way that they can be proud of it.”
In December 2009, they had their first exhibition at Arts on Main, and since then the project has grown from strength to strength. They now have a permanent shop at Arts on Main, and have recently opened their second shop at the hip and happening 70 Juta Street in Braamfontein. Here, you can buy mounted canvas prints, notebooks and postcards with the images created by the budding young Joburg artists. If you are looking for authentic, honest and real images of Joburg, this is what you should get. It is also a great opportunity to make a real contribution to help former street children to improve their lives. For those of you that can’t make it to one of the shops (which I really recommend), there is also an online shop on their website: http://www.iwasshot.com/