Challenging Perceptions, Part 2

Ponte City Tower, in the Hillbrow neighborhood of Joburg. Photo Credit to Dlala Nje.
Ponte City Tower, in the Hillbrow neighborhood of Joburg. Photo Credit to Dlala Nje.

We’re trying very hard to get locals to come and experience these areas too because we believe it’s invaluable for them to see the complexities of Johannesburg, one they won’t see in the pre-conceived bubbles they live in. 

-Michael Luptak, Co-founder of Dlala Nje

For those just tuning in, I’ve spent my past two months investigating how large water projects in South Africa, like dams and canals, have impacted communities and individuals. My first few weeks here were a mix of poring over academic papers, talking to experts and narrowing my itinerary to a few key communities. More recently, I’ve begun taking road trips to towns around Johannesburg which have some relationship to the Vaal River.

The Vaal is vitally important to South Africa’s economic output – it supplies municipal and industrial water to the greater Johannesburg metro area, and is a tributary of the mighty Orange River. In one small town I visited, I recorded stories from farmers, museum curators, shop owners, whitewater rafters and agronomists about how their lives were shaped by the river. For some residents, the Vaal represented an everyday symbol of apartheid, a literal barrier between two separate, unequal existences. For others, the river remains a nourishing source for crops and a keystone supporting a burgeoning tourism industry.

I’ll get to those stories in a future update, but as promised in my previous post, here’s Part Two of my series on how a few entrepreneurs are challenging perceptions in Johannesburg. This story takes place in the Hillbrow neighborhood of Joburg, specifically in Ponte City, a towering residential building. I’ll let the podcast take it from here.


Michael Luptak is one of the cofounders of Dlala Nje
Michael Luptak is one of the cofounders of Dlala Nje. Photo by Dlala Nje


Ishan Thakore, a multimedia storyteller and journalist, is creating a series of short films to portray a nuanced portrait of the human benefits as well as the costs of large-scale water development in South Africa. Follow him here on the Voices blog, on Twitter and on Instagram

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Hi! My name's Ishan Thakore and I'm a 2016-2017 Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow from East Brunswick, New Jersey. For the next 9 months, I'll be cataloging my "Taming Rivers" project, a visual journey along the Orange and Vaal Rivers in South Africa and potentially other countries. My film project centers on how large-scale infrastructure projects promise broad economic benefits but have much more nuanced effects at the community level. I'm interested in exploring and retelling the individual narratives of people who have been affected by some of these projects. I spent most of the past year working as a fact-checker for "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," a late-night satirical news show. You may be wondering how my skills fact-checking Donald Trump jokes will translate to this project, but I assure you they will. Essentially, in this blog, I hope to mix a degree of levity with a strong attention to detail to give readers a taste of the places I'll be. I've also recently decided to become a millennial and post more on Twitter and Instagram, so follow me to get a behind-the-scenes look at the journey!