Old Town, New Town (Synagogue Fordsburg)

Joe Turpin

About Joe Turpin

I am Joe Turpin, an artist living and working in Johannesburg South Africa where I am from. I was born in 1995 and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg with a BA Honours Degree in Fine Art, in 2018. I am Jewish, and as my work is informed by history and circumstance, sometimes this influences elements of my work’s subject matter and research. I have undertaken a number of residencies and group exhibitions around the world, as well as holding some solo projects.

About Old Town, New Town (Synagogue Fordsburg)

The artwork ‘Old Town New Town (Fordsburg Synagogue) is a painting that is heavily influenced by the Jewish history of the Johannesburg neighbouring suburbs of Fordsburg and Mayfair. Today they are prominently, albeit mixed, Muslim populated areas – however, when they sprang up in Johannesburg’s sprawling growth in the Twentieth Century, they were known as predominantly Jewish areas, and each used to have a Synagogue. Reasons for Jewish migration from the areas vary, but the Mayfair Synagogue is now a girls school, which has been restructured, whereas the Fordsburg Synagogue was demolished (with relevant permissions) to in part make way for the Oriental Plaza – a shopping bazaar built by the apartheid government in order to forcibly relocate Muslim people from other areas being reserved for white South Africans. I am interested in this history as for over one year (2020/21) my studio where I worked was in Fordsburg, not far from the Plaza – thus it was site specific, and historically related to my identity, to do some research and make a work about the area. The two figures depicted were present congregants when the Synagogue in Fordsburg was first built, and attended the bricklaying ceremony.I believe this relates to the Shmita values as working through definitions of community (Jewish), but also relations to other communities (Jewish community in relation to others such as Muslim in Johannesburg), relationship to land (apartheid history and forced removals is tied in to land, geography, division and geopolitics) as well as consumption (the currently existed shopping bazaar standing where a Synagogue used to be). The year long residency I spent there has now come to an end, and I am resting. This painting was the last one I made in that space.