Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser is a non-fiction book published in 2014 and is about the highs and lows of Johannesburg the city, also encompassing a few snippets of the author’s life-stories/tales in this sometimes beautiful and sometimes terrible city.
In this book Mark uses a hostage situation that he, along with 3 others endured in the city; starting his tale on an ugly and yet realistic note as per our knowledge of crime in this city. He then goes on to paint a beautiful picture of memories of the city. His game that he used to play as a child ‘Dispatcher’, which got him to realize that black townships which were on the outskirts of suburbs such as Alexander at the border of Sandton, were not included on the map of Johannesburg.
Mark Gevisser is a weaver of a quilt when it comes to story-telling, putting together stories which you wouldn’t normally put together and yet make the tale so beautiful! An example of this is how in one section when he talks about the Jukskei river and the many tributaries it connects to, he then starts talking about rivers and the fact that they are used for ritualistic purposes by different religious sects. He goes on to say how the same patch within the river can be used by Satanists, Sangoma’s for cleansing, churches for baptisms etc.
I quite enjoyed the many facts which were as given bonus of Lost and found in Johannesburg. I got to learn about Lithuania and how the Jews faced a similar fate there as they did in the Nazi regime of Germany. I got to learn more about some of the white freedom fighters who resided in Johannesburg and the pool parties they hosted. The curfew that was in place during the apartheid era and how some black people were left stranded in the city after hours and which white families they would turn to in order to avoid getting arrested. I learnt about white families adopting they’re maids children and taking them to school and how in some instances it ended up not emancipating the family from poverty, instead leading to lost dreams and a lifetime of wishing…What I might take away from the book, if forced to under duress…
I, probably would wish we could know who the perpetrators of the hostage situation and house robbery were. Yet this would take away from the mystery which the author saw fit to leave the book in, considering this is also the reality we live with in South Africa where crimes are committed and yet the ones responsible are for one reason or the other never brought to book.
This book is definitely best read by open-minded people, for two reasons. The first being that it delves into belief systems some people would best not read about, such as the Lesbian Sangoma who lives in Soweto and how she’s lesbian because the ancestor who passed the powers onto her was male…The second being the fact that some people might not take kindly to being told that there are men in Soweto who are married and have kids, (bomaGrootman) who are secretly gay. So if you’re one of those who prefers living under a cloud far away from reality, this book is one of those you’d best walk past without second glance.
Out of 10 I would give this book a 9 for ease of read and the adventures I went on with the author, taking away the 1 only for the fact that I want to read an account of Johannesburg from a ‘black’ perspective before I regard this version as scripture.
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