City of gold, egoli, city of lights, Johassleburg, Jozi, and world-class city. These are some of the names that people often use to refer to Johannesburg, which speaks about the complexity of the city as both a place of dreams and possibilities.
For some, the City represents a place of dreams, hope and prosperity and to others, it is a place of pain and shame. The latter best captures the stories in The Blinded City.
In The Blinded City, Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon narrates painful stories of unlawful occupiers of Johannesburg’s inner-city so-called hijacked, dark, and bad buildings. From the voices of illegal and legal immigrants, to the locals who all share the same pain of being poor in a City that wants to throw them out in the name of “urban renewal and regeneration”.
Political repression, housing activism, law, xenophobia, death, love, loss, safety, humiliation are all themes that form part of the narrative throughout.
Now, I need to congratulate Matthew for his great work in giving the poor and marginalized people living in the inner-city a voice to narrate their daily struggles of abuse, shame and pain.
Perusing through the pages of this book I found myself sharing the pain of fellow human beings who continue to fight to make the inner-city their home and place of safety. I was, however, so disgusted with how successive administrations running the City expose not only their xenophobic tendencies, but their anti-poor agenda in their plans to get rid of poor people in the inner-city. It is disheartening that when the City’s successive governments speak about “urban renewal” in the inner-city, they literally mean getting rid of the poor people, who mostly are Black locals and immigrants and the scribe beautifully exposes that inside the pages of this book.
The Blinded City vividly captures how Johannesburg can be both a space of humiliation and refuge for the poor people.
This book opens up a conversation about the plight of poor people in a City that has for long styled itself as a place of dreams and hopes.
I like how the author immersed himself in the lives of his subjects and what we got is honest stories from all of them. What Matthew did in The Blind City also speaks about him as much as it is about the people. As a reader, you can see his compassion, love, caring and solidarity with the people. In a City and country that continue to ostracize foreign nationals, both illegal and legal, Matthew decided to be a human above everything else and shared their pain and struggles.
The scribe’s narrative form of writing also makes the stories more relatable and easy to read.
The Blinded City is a well-researched account of how complex and multi-layered the City of Johannesburg is for poor people.