Slices of my South Africa à la Instax

I love telling stories and writing my blog posts always makes me happy. But sometimes, there’s a story waiting to be shared, that gets me even more excited.

This is one of those stories.

Hear this: I was invited to take part in a photo exchange. Oh Yeah!

What is a photo exchange, you ask. Good question. Well, I asked that exact question when I was approached on Instagram.

The mystery friend (for now) and I had been following each other for a while and it was obvious to us that we are both passionate about Instax. She always shares beautiful Instax photo-in-photo posts on her feed and recently started a project in which she invites other Instax lovers around the world to exchange their creations by post. Yes, correct. Real photos, real prints and sent by real, old-style, analog postal service.

I’m a bit of a retro-kinda-girl myself and many things that include old-anything get me excited. I had pen pals when I was a little girl, became an adult that loves Instax prints and belong to a community called “post crossing” where I exchange real postcards with strangers all across the world.

This invitation felt like it combined all of the above and made me jump for joy!

It was a no brainer for me to use the fabulously large prints from my Instax Wide printer. On top of printing fantastic photographs, the printer also offers the option to add a QR to prints that embeds a link to a website, a voice message, a location or a hidden message. These are such great features and I couldn’t wait to use them for this occasion.

I chose some of my favourite images with a connection to South Africa, and decided to turn this into a little photo tour through parts of our beautiful country.

@Kwadrat w Mieście, this is for you. Journey with me for a slice of my South Africa, à la Instax

For the last 20 years, South Africa has been my home. It is a beautiful, colourful country that, in spite of its struggles and challenges, never ceases to amaze me. It is my honour to share a few of my personal favourite highlights with you:

Print 1: Welcome to your ride around my South Africa

This bicycle is a typical souvenir which you can buy from craftsmen that sell art made from recycled tins, in all kinds of shapes and sizes at street corners all over the country. Handmade crafts are an important source of income for many and span a multitude of souvenirs made of wood carvings, basket weaving, pottery and beading.

The bicycle in this photograph is actually a wedding gift to my husband and I. It is perched on top of our bookshelf to remind us of our special day. I created this photograph for a photography project called X-Frame, in which I shared one photograph a week shot on a Fujifilm X100 Series camera (in this case my X100S) for 4 years. These images are still available online and you can click here to view them.

Print 2: Let’s bridge our differences

“Nelson Mandela Bridge” in Johannesburg is named after our first democratically elected president. It is said to be the largest cable-stayed bridge in Southern Africa and was inaugurated in 2003 by the man himself. It is a symbol of his work and efforts to bridge the divide in society caused by Apartheid. Zoom and scan the QR Code to take yourself there!

I took this photograph on one of my first photo walks with my husband (long before we were married). We are both keen photographers and spend a lot of time on photo walks together. The area in the photograph is called Braamfontein and borders Johannesburg’s central business district – you can see the lights of some of the buildings downtown in the bottom part of the photograph (the photo is also the feature image on my website).

Print 3: Jozi Skyline in Graffiti

@Kwadrat w Mieście I can only imagine what you would have done with this graffiti and an Instax. It’s of our iconic skyline. Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city with over 9,6 million people. Hardly anyone here calls it by its full name in everyday conversation. More poetically, called “City of Gold” or “eGoli” in isiZulu, the name refers to its roots – when it was nothing but a gold-mining settlement in the 19th century. Many locals call it “Jozi” or Joburg and yes, people living here call themselves Joburgers! Scan the QR Code and listen!

This photograph was created during the 24-hour Project in 2018 (you can read all about it here) when I came across the artwork. The project is held once a year and photographers are invited from across the globe to take and share one photograph an hour, every hour, for a total of 24 hours. The aim is to document humanity for a specific cause. My husband and I have taken part in this twice before and are planning on joining this year’s event again in September.

Print 4: Shadow Boxing

Statues and monuments in celebration of Nelson Mandela can be found literally everywhere in South Africa. This statue, which I photographed during a city tour while my sister was visiting from Germany, is found in Newtown, an area in downtown Joburg. It is called “The Shadow Boxer”. Inspired by a famous photograph, the statue depicts Nelson Mandela as a young, amateur boxer and symbolises his struggles against the Apartheid regime. Scan the QR Code to find out more.

Print 5: Purple City

Every year in October, Johannesburg turns purple when the many million Jacaranda trees bloom and announce the arrival of spring. It is quite the sight to see and worth many a photographic excursion. As iconic as this spectacle is to the city (as well as the nearby administrative capital, Pretoria), Jacarandas are not native to the country. They originate from South America and were brought here a very long time ago.

This colourful display lasts only a few weeks every year, and most years I have missed the days when the trees were at their best and most purple. It wasn’t until last year that my timing was on point. I spent a few hours walking the streets of suburban Johannesburg early one morning to capture these pretty trees in all their purple beauty.

Print 6: The Union Buildings

Situated in Pretoria, the official seat of the government, and designed and built by one of the great architects of his time, Sir Herbert Baker, the Union Buildings also house the President’s office. The two towers represent Afrikaans and English, two of the eleven official languages, and the inner court symbolises the union of South Africa. Not surprisingly, you can also find one of many statues of Nelson Mandela here. Scan the QR Code for a closer look.

This is one of the major tourist attractions and most visitors to the city will stop here. The area is usually teeming with people, so I was lucky to find it relatively empty when capturing this photo.

Print 7: Striped Bokeh

But enough of cities and history for a moment. Let’s take a look at one of the biggest attractions South Africa has to offer to visitors from all over the world.

I am an animal lover and as part of fulfilling a childhood dream of mine, moved to Botswana to work as a guide on a luxury mobile safari before turning into a city girl and moving to Johannesburg. I adore wild animals, love observing them and capturing their natural beauty with my camera.

There are many national parks, game parks and nature reserves where one can encounter the beauty of South Africa’s wildlife. The bush and it’s game, as it’s locally referred to, are part of the reason why I ended up moving here.

Scan the QR Code and find yourself in the middle of Kruger National Park – the country’s most well-known and largest national park, stretching an impressive 360km from north to south along the eastern border with Mozambique. It is larger than eSwatini or Slovenia, about the same size as Israel and slightly smaller than Belgium.

Zebras are amongst my favourite animals. I don’t tire of photographing them. They are just sooo photogenic. However, I actually didn’t photograph this particular one in Kruger National Park, but in a different area, much closer to home. We were visiting friends who have moved from Johannesburg to live on a game farm called “Verloren” (which means “lost” in Afrikaans). Did you ask what a “game farm” is? Well, they are pretty unique to South Africa – cattle farms that have been re-populated with plains game and transformed into residential estates. People have built their (often very luxurious) homes there and live in harmony with wild game on their doorstep. I have written about this visit before. You can read the article here:

Print 8: The Loner

This is one of my recent, favourite black & white photographs (also taken at “Verloren” during a more recent visit) and takes me back to what it felt like watching this very large, yet majestic animal, calm and peacefully walking down a dirt road. Despite their size, giraffes are almost silent and blend perfectly into their environment (unless they walk down a dirt road, that is). It is possible to drive past one, or even a number of them, without noticing that they’re busy browsing through the African bush and picking the leaves off the tops of their favourite trees with their incredibly long tongues. Scan the QR Code and listen!

Print 9: Surf’s Up

Before I run out of prints, we’d better head south, way south, all the way to Cape Town, the second largest city in South Africa and one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit.

There are heaps of gorgeous places to visit in Cape Town and around the Cape Peninsula to keep you busy for weeks if you wish, but one of the top attractions to “must see” are her beautiful beaches. Spoilt for choice with miles and miles of pretty white beach sand, one of my favourites is Surfers’ Corner at Muizenberg Beach, named after the fabulous waves enjoyed by surfers far and wide.

The beaches along the Western coastline look gorgeous, and thanks to the many palm trees, tropical and very inviting. However, even in the heat of summer, the waters hardly ever reach temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius. And, however cruel this may sound, not really suitable for swimming, especially for international tourists expecting a beach experience resembling that of, say, Mauritius.

They offer stunning photo opportunities though, just like the iconic beach huts that line parts of the Muizenberg beach front. The huts are instantly recognisable and always great fun to photograph, come summer or winter, at sunset or sunrise. They always look good and inviting, and give your photographs an instant holiday feel. I love this photo of mine which was taken a few years back and shows off these structures and their vibrant colours against the blue sky and ocean behind it.

I like the picture so much that I didn’t have the heart to add a QR code to the print. If you are curious as to where exactly this beach is located, please follow this link.

Print 10: Did somebody say Penguins?

At the top of my list of animals to watch are the penguins that naturally occur along the Cape coastline. No matter the mood you’re in, once you start observing these entertaining creatures, you will soon find a smile spreading across your face. I never miss an opportunity to visit them whenever I am close to either of the two mainland colonies in South Africa where the African Penguin occurs. This picture was taken at one of my visits to the colony at Boulder’s Beach (zoom in and scan the QR Code for more info). I hope they will put a smile on your face too!

Print 11: The End of Africa

Even though I have had to skip countless wonderful places all around the country in this quick tour, I thought a print of the southern-most tip of Africa would make for a fitting finale. This place, about 170km southeast of Cape Town, is called Cape Agulhas and forms the last bit of solid and very rocky ground before it gives way to the vast masses of ocean waters to the South. It also symbolises the dividing line between the Indian Ocean to the East and the Atlantic Ocean to the West.

The lighthouse in this photograph, was built in 1848 to try and protect the many ships circumnavigating the tip of Africa, but the very rough sea has been deadly to many ships over the last one and a half centuries and their wrecks can be found all along the coastline.

Although I have lived in South Africa for 20 years now, it wasn’t until last year that I visited the area for the first time and this photograph was one of many that I took during my visit. Scan the QR Code on the print and it will take you there too.

However brief and incomplete, I hope you enjoyed your introductory tour to South Africa. The country is bursting with beauty and interesting places to visit, and these eleven stops definitely don’t do it justice. I hope that the QR Codes on the prints make the discovery of some of my favourite places fun and are a great opportunity to add a little extra info to our photo exchange.

Thank you for sharing this fantastic idea and also your love for instant photography with me. It has been a phenomenal experience.

***Post Scriptum: Before I could put my letter with my prints in the mail, I received a beautiful collection of prints from @Kwadrat w Mieście and I am extremely happy and proud to be the owner of such wonderful Instax art. Please visit and follow her profile on Instagram and show her some love. Her posts are phenomenal!

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