Scary stories from a lovely place

The fakers guide to faking enjoying living in Jozi # Montecasino

The longer I live in Jozi the more I experience a two-fold and unfortunate truth. A) Most people here don’t actually want to live here. They are here to earn cash or an education and then plan on taking that ‘home’ to invest in lives and communities there. B) This naturally brings with it an uncertainty and even disdain for the natural charm of Jozi. Along with this comes a prevalence of fake charm in Johannesburg which means there are many themed restaurants/casinos/malls as well as contrived spots of charm, safety and character.

The other day I went with my friend Ellie to Montecasino in Fourways which is one such contrived spot of charm and character. What is Montecasino’s theme? A Tuscan village at sunrise/sunset/nighttime depending on which part you are in. What is it? A collection of shops, restaurants, a casino, theatre, cinema and hotel. Where is it? Characteristically far from the city, in the middle of the suburbs, away from anything that is ‘real’ about Jozi.

This is the fake romantic sunset over the fake village. If you look very closely you will see a fake heron sitting on the fake roof.

But I must confess, I actually like Montecasino. Not because it provides an escape from the stress of Joburg or because it is particularly classy. I like it because it’s funny to drive into a parking lot, ride an elevator, be frisked and then step onto the cobble stones of a Tuscan village. Monte (as I affectionately call it) is replete with Tuscan buildings, washing lines hanging between cottages, windows dressed with bottles of wine, pigeons, herons, waxy candles, a bicycle or two, busty ladies and laughing children. The streets are lined with trees in aumtumnal colours, a ‘Polizia’ car and fairy lights. And if you gaze up above the blue sky is dusted with clouds, which changes to sunset oranges, darkness, and then purply hues for sunrise as you walk through Monte. All as fake and contrived and laughable as a fake marriage, love affair or living and taking from a city which you would rather not live in.

This is someone fake’s fake washing hanging between their fake homes over the fake street being dried beneath the fake sky.

The patrons fakely enjoying the fake Tuscan village are sad gamblers (pokies are always sad), white teenagers with R100 each, tourists (because where else in this city could you take them to fakely appreciate it?) and me and whichever unlucky friend I have dragged along to join me in mocking Monte and enjoying the thai restaurant.

It’s all pretty sad really and makes me want to love the natural charm of Jozi even more than I already do and continue to be an apostle for enjoying all the wonderful, real things this city has to offer. Sure it’s hard, but that’s part of what makes it good. Stay tuned for my real guide to actually enjoying the real charm Jozi has to offer; sightseeing, living, eating, shopping. Tuscan not included.

If I can manage it I am going to get my hands on a bunch of stickers that I have heard architects tote and plaster them all over Monte; “Do crime, do drugs, just don’t do Tuscan”. Amen. If only more architects would stick to that mantra maybe we wouldn’t have the problem of so many fake Tuscan villages all over Jozi.

Ellie fake smiling on the fake cobblestones next to the fake tree.


8 comments on “The fakers guide to faking enjoying living in Jozi # Montecasino

  1. Ellie
    November 20, 2009


  2. Matt
    November 23, 2009

    I love Jozi and I live here because I want to – not to make money (thank goodness because my salary is lousy). However, contrary to your views above, I think that some theming adds to the overall charm of this vibrant city. Let’s be real … we are inundated with fake objects from the moment we open our eyes in this city. From the fake Oakley’s and sports paraphernalia thrust upon us every traffic light to the fake ID’s and driver’s licenses of most of the taxi drivers and passengers in Jozi. The entire informal workforce of Jozi makes a living by selling fake artifacts.

    In defense of Monte (as you affectionately call it), their theming has been there for 10 years and has attracted and entertained enthusiastic local and international visitors for the full 10 years. The ability to host a variety of world class shows and events has meant that Jozi residents have had the opportunity to experience the best of Broadway, celebrity concerts and high powered sporting events. Where else could Jozi residents have seen Disney’s The Lion King or the SA Tennis Open.

    Natural charm is not something found in a bustling metropolis, but rather in the natural outdoors. Cities are made of concrete and the most popular fake architecture of the day. It is the people that make it real, and without the people in business willing to invest in this city, Jozi will become very real – the type of real which includes dire poverty and starvation. So before we write off the fake charm of casinos, malls and restaurants, let’s remember the pivotal role they play in the economy of our beloved Jozi.

    • kimlovesjozi
      November 23, 2009

      Jozi is full of natural charm, much of which I will detail in future blog posts. I love that our city, the CBD and the surrounding sprawl are a melding of natural and man made charm. Indeed our city is full of falsities, but why do we have to only enjoy the fake charm of constructed realities like Monte, malls, themed restaurants, wedding venues on the Westrand and gated communities? I want to look for more natural, organic, human charm.

      The informal economy of Jozi isn’t entirely made up of people selling rip off sunglasses and bags. I enjoy the very real fruit and vegetables I buy from a lady in my street, as well as the real interaction I have with her, even if, due to language barriers, that interaction means me mistakenly buying a plate of rocks instead of tomatoes. But you are right, Jozi’s economy is, at the moment, riding on the back of malls, casinos etc. I long for the day when it’s not.

      It’s a sad fact that if all the rich people left Jozi then all the poor people would descend into dire poverty and starvation. To prevent that let’s enjoy the entertainment offered by places like Monte, but also take in a show at the Market Theatre in Newtown, enjoy a soccer match at Orlando Stadium in Soweto and eat an Indian meal in Mayfair.

      • Matt
        November 24, 2009

        Couldn’t agree more – there is much that Jozi has to offer, and we should enjoy every aspect. I think it is possible to do exactly that without putting down any part of this marvellous city, fake or real. I have spent many happy hours in the Market Theatre and as many at Monte, and plan to continue doing just that.

        I look forward to your future blogs.

      • kimlovesjozi
        November 27, 2009

        Sadly, I fear not everyone living in this city shares your balanced view of things.

  3. Miriam
    November 23, 2009

    Hahaha! What a great post. You had me laughing. Reminds me of that movie with Jim Carey…..where he’s living in that fake world and escapes.
    Keep the posts coming.

  4. Pingback: The Kwera Kwera’s guide to enjoying Jozi: Brightwater Commons « Kimlovesjozi

  5. Pingback: Putting the calm into Jozi | Kimlovesjozi

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2009 by in Beefs, Life in South Africa, The Kwera Kwera's guide to enjoying Jozi and tagged , , , .
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