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The Creative Streets of Johannesburg – Photo Essay

Johannesburg, South Africa is a destination which is experiencing increased popularity, reinventing itself into an exciting and attractive proposition for travellers.

Graffiti has also come a long way in recent years; once viewed as the handiwork of undesirables and vandals, many street artists are justifiably receiving worldwide acclaim for their stunning often building sized creations.

Steet art in the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-35

A dragon in the City of Gold

There is plenty to experience, especially for those willing to put aside any preconceptions and explore a city once considered unsafe. The residents are friendly and rightly proud of their city, it has become a vibrant and lively destination. There are still issues that need addressing but it is a work in progress that is blessed with a number of impressive projects.

Street art in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-13

Portraits wall in Newtown

Street art is an especially popular project with numerous creations throughout the city, a good fit for the City of Gold. They are often colourful, many are very high quality and most add a great deal to the cityscape; innovative, artistic and vibrant street art is surely preferable to dull building walls.

Wooden sculpture in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-15

Handsome wood

Wooden sculptures in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-21

Contemporary art in Newtown

There is great potential for further artistic enhancement of the city, with hundreds of blank ‘canvases’ just waiting for an ambitious artist to use their palette of spray paints, adding their individual brand of creativity. This is my kind of art.

Arts on Main project in the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-33

Arts on Main project in the Maboneng

Street art can enhance the aesthetic appeal of any city. When effectively blended with other innovative artistic projects such as those in Johannesburg it becomes even more attractive.

Street art in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-27

Original street art in Newtown

Entering the cultural precinct of Newtown, it is almost impossible to miss the hundreds of wooden figurines which sit on top of concrete plinths seemingly everywhere. It is a collaboration of four talented artists, Simon Guambe, Petrus Matsolo, Dan Guambe and Joe Matola. Each sculpture is a unique creation, their design appears tribal and symbolises the diversity of the migrants accepted into Newtown for many centuries. The 560 busts which form regimented lines in numerous public places are a great concept and add an unusual dimension to the public art of Johannesburg.

A dragon in Chinatown Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-29

A dragon totem in Chinatown

Contemporary art in the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-38

Photography exhibit at the Main Change, Maboneng

One of the most ambitious projects is the “Arts on Main”; inner city exhibitions of literature, film and contemporary art which are enlivening districts including Maboneng, the “Place of Light”. Warehouse space has been given over to studios and galleries enabling artists to create, display and sell their creations. It also provides space for dance or music performances, photography displays, film screenings, poetry recitals and lectures providing a cultural hub and breathing life into the developing city centre.

Contemporary art exhibiit on the streets of the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-42

Street exhibit

Contemporary art exhibiit on the streets of the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-40

Art on the streets in the Maboneng

An unexpected surprise found when touring the city was discovering a line of canvas paintings displayed on an otherwise nondescript building. Each one was different but there appeared to be a distinct theme; young, upwardly mobile people provided the subject for the pictures of this contemporary street art gallery. There was insufficient time on the walking tour to really examine each one, but even at a glance they all appeared bright and fresh, I really enjoyed the unexpected exhibition.

Pigeon Square n cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-24

Contemporary pigeon perches

Pigeon Square n cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-23

Pigeons in the sun

In “Pigeon Square” there are even a series of sculptures which are dedicated to pigeons; 3 large steel sculptures signify origami pigeons and are home to hundreds of cooing birds. They fit well with this friendly city which is fond of a bird that is considered vermin in almost every other major conurbation in the world.

Wooden sculptures in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-20

Love these quirky characters

A capella singer at the Brenda Fassie sculpture in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-19

Open mic with Brenda Fassie

Our tour group was treated to another pleasant surprise at the sculpture of Brenda Fassie in Newtown. The singer known as the Madonna of the townships, and acclaimed as one of South Africa’s biggest home-grown stars died in 2004. There were several people in the vicinity of the figurine, including a young, transsexual singer that provided us with an impromptu a cappella which seemed appropriate in this lively destination with its affinity for music.

Street art in the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-43

Vibrant art in the Maboneng

My short time in Johannesburg convinced me there is plenty happening here. It is actually a much greener city than expected, but is still filled with galleries and fashionable shops.

The nightlife is lively often starting early in the colourful townships or Neighbourgoods market and similar cool spots. Continuing into the early hours of the morning, take a gentle hint though don’t sleep in too late. Leave plenty of time to explore and experience the great street art of this vibrant city.

Street art in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-26

Wonder wall in Jo’burg

Street art in cultural precinct of Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-31

Amazing reflection detail in the eye

*Apologies the images are not up to the usual standard, they were taken on a compact camera.

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  1. Meruschka

    Hi Iain. Lovely post! I love walking the city’s street, there’s just so much art and creativity in the inner city, and its constantly changing. The city has really invested in public art projects. Joburg city is becoming a destination in its own right as it should be.

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      Iain

      Thank you Meruschka it was great meeting you and hope we get the chance again. I really enjoyed visiting Jo’burg, just would have appreciated more time. Hopefully there will be another opportunity oner day soon.

  2. Kenin Bassart

    It’s great to see so many cities worldwide embracing something that they used to try to remove and prosecute. Many times when they allow good street art (non-gang related) it does much to beautify an area and cover up many urban blights. You captured the colors and images very well.

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      Iain

      I totally agree Kenin, they are a vast improvement on boring, plain buildings, huge canvases all over the cities of the world. Street artists often respect each other so if more of the most talented ones were employed to brighten up these conurbations there would be less room for the less talented spray paint scrawlers to do their worst.

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  3. Carole Hobbs

    Several new hotels have opened in Johannesburg’s inner city in the past few years. This month, the Reef Hotels Gold opened on the corner of Harrison and Anderson streets, with 120 standard and deluxe rooms. It is a converted 1970s office building, and plays on the theme of the city’s gold history.

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      Iain

      It’s great to hear that Jo’burg is still being developed and cool hotels are being established to attract future travellers Carole

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      Iain

      Thanks Brian not quite sure what you mean by an ideal setting for learning to glide, are there some characteristics of Jozie which make it suitable? Thanks for the kind comment regarding photos.

  4. Brianmcquillan

    Johannesburg- an enchanting destination of South Africa.It is one of the most gorgeous cities around the world and is a red hot spot that enchants and allure visitors from all across the world.

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      Iain

      I’ve realised you have an interest in the gliding business but we both agree on how great a city Jozie is. Thanks again for commenting.

  5. AY

    The photos are great. i didn’t know all the street art in Johannesburg. You only really ever hear about the dangers in Jo’burg and never about anything else.

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  6. Ryan

    Wow, again with the stellar street art posts! Love it, especially that first photo in the alleyway. It definitely brings a different life to a bare landscape. I think graffiti and street art that is actually tasteful and artistic brings a city to life.

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      Iain

      I hope you return to visit your sister one day soon Charu, the city gets a bad rep, but it’s not deserved, I loved my short time there.

  7. Leli Maki Esq.

    Hey Iain

    Hope you’re well.

    I’m an independent film director and I wanted to chat to you about possibly using some of your pics as part of the title sequence for an indie film I have just finished shooting. Love the pics and it’s always interesting to see a fresh pair of eyes giving us a fresh take on Johannesburg.

    Please contact me via email mate.

    Cheers

  8. Nima

    I’m living in Joburg and I think these kind of articles are very misleading and are only there to serve interests of some investors and business owners . You know better than anybody else that there is no such a thing as city of joburg. If you have ever walked in that city you know it is full of dirt, smell like pee and full of beggers that are waiting for you. Although it is now quit safe during the day thanks to heavy police patrolling, there is no possibility to even think about walking in the street after 5pm. MABONEng is only one street in the whole city. Part of NEWTOWN is walkable during the day but Last week I was taking pictures of these grafities and police asked me to leave because yesterday they robbed a tourist’ camera. I think it is stupid to travel to a country to see some grafities from behind the window of bus. You and people like you have to be ashamed of themselves for spreading these lies and put people’s life in danger.

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      Iain

      I appreciate your opinion, and warning for other travellers Nima, but these weren’t taken from behind the window of a bus. We walked the whole around the whole district without any issues whatsoever. They are not lies, this is what happened, I can only comment on my own experience, and didn’t feel threatened at anytime!

      I have plenty of South African friends that refer to Johannesburg as Joburg, so don’t understand your point?

      There are beggars, and muggings on the streets of almost every major city in the world every day, this is not merely a Johannesburg problem. I also walked around Cape Town, and Durban alone several times with my camera, and again never felt threatened at anytime. While I encourage caution, alarmism, and trying to scare visitors away does not benefit anybody.

  9. golden triangle tours

    wow, amazing painting and great way to make attract walls. statue are looking awesome.
    Great Painting

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