The Maboneng Precinct in Jo’burg’s eastern CBD is perhaps the city’s most spectacular story of inner-city regeneration driven largely by a single young entrepreneur, Jonathan Liebmann, with vision and creativity. Even five years ago, the vibrant precinct, now a mixed-use mecca of shops, apartments and entertainment, was nothing but a dream in a run-down district characterised by neglected industrial buildings. Now it is one of the city’s major drawcards.
Its pioneering, flagship development was Arts on Main, a centre where some of the city’s best galleries and design retailers are concentrated and where top artists, including William Kentridge, have studios. Black Coffee, one of Jo’burg’s best fashion houses headed up by designer Jacues van der Watt, shares space with Love Jozi, a quirky and patriotic design shop best known for their range of t-shirts. Love Jozi’s Skyline Keyrack, based on the silhouette of the city skyline, has become a local classic and a Joburg Tap Water bottle, riffing on the city’s famously safe drinking water, is a worthwhile keepsake. If you have a taste for city-inspired design, pop into 1886boutiquejoburg.co.za too for cushions and fabric inspired by historical maps and local landmarks.
Likewise, I was Shot in Joburg is a design shop concentrating on “photographic products, homeware and gifting”, but staffed by former street children who have been trained in photography. Arts on Main is also home of David Krut, a local printing studio that prints works by many of South Africa’s top artists, but also has an excellent selection of local books on South African art, craft and design. Maboneng is also home to the recently re-opened Museum of African Design, generally known by its acronym MOAD, “Africa’s first museum dedicated to design”. It’s an absolute must for anyone interested in local design, and has a great gift shop attached.
Stroll around the precinct and you’ll stumble on fashion, furniture and more around every corner. Other noteworthy fashion labels include Loin Cloth and Ashes, and while you’re there look out for fashion label Babatunde’s trilbies, umbrellas and iPad sleeves featuring an inspiring fusion of African wax prints with western shapes. Even the 12 Decades Hotel, situated in one of the area’s flagship residential buildings, Main Street Life, is an ode to South African art and design. It’s 12 rooms, each dedicated to a decade in the history of Joburg, have each been designed by a noteworthy local artists or designer.Maboneng is also home to the fantastic Market on Main (at Arts on Main) – open every Sunday.
All images by Sawubona Art Director, Shaun Mallett.