Call it gentrification – which for some means the removal of the urban poor in favour of the well-heeled crowds – but the revival of South Africa’s inner cities has been a boon for the arts. Once-seedy buildings are now home to trendy cafes, art galleries, pop-up theatres, open-air film screenings and hip stores. These new establishments often create employment and support local economies by attracting patrons with disposable incomes.
Here’s our list of must-see urban spots to visit.
One Eloff Street, Jo’burg
Painted a striking yellow and turquoise, this building in downtown Jo’burg is part of a precinct called Joziburg Lane, one the city’s trendiest areas. Ignore the nondescript exterior and go inside where you’ll be dazzled by artists’ studios and a well laid out eating area run by Hangout Jozi, offering art, craft and a deli. In addition, you’ll also find pop-up food stalls with all kinds of scrumptious street food.
The venue is slowly coming onto its own, evolving into a must-see destination that’s committed to supporting local communities, particularly artists.
Nkhensani Rihlampfu is a bronze and rope sculptor artist who is thriving at One Eloff Street. He used to live and work in a downtown flat which was too small to accommodate his artworks so he approached the Joziburg developers for a studio that better suited his needs.
Rihlampfu is making the most of the space and has just completed a 2m-tall clay sculpture of Basil d’Oliviera, an England cricketer born in South Africa who triggered a storm of controversy in 1968 when the apartheid regime forced his recall from the England team facing South Africa due to his race. “He is one of our country’s freedom fighters who used sport to fight the apartheid government. Without inner-city regeneration, I would not have had the space to tell such an important story,” he says.
The Marabi Club, Jo’burg
Another nugget in the city of gold is The Marabi Club on 47 Sivewright Ave in New Doornfontein, which opened its doors about six months ago. Apart from the attraction of live jazz, the place houses a pop-up Pot Luck Club restaurant, a Cape Town institution run by world-famous chef Luke Dale-Roberts.
Named after marabi, a popular music genre during the heyday of mining in Jo’burg, the club tastefully curates the city’s history, culture and heritage through framed pictures of masters of the jazz pantheon. With carefully selected decor pieces that mix the old and new, the places oozes industrial chic. It’s a haven for foodies and music lovers, and and ideal platform for emerging jazz artists wanting to perfect their craft in front of a live audience.
The Old Biscuit Mill, Cape Town
The Old Biscuit Mill is a warm-hearted village in the middle of Woodstock, Cape Town, boasting workshops, designer stores and restaurants and farm stalls. Crackling with creative energy, the mill is also a popular festivals venue.
Many creatives, such as Tammy Nicol, owner of Bellovista Productions, praise the development of the area. “We have definitely benefited from the rejuvenation of Woodstock. Urban renewal changed the shape of design, and as a result, not everyone in the creative industry requires a full-time office, shop, gallery or studio space anymore,” she says.
The mill also caters for foodies. The weekly Neighbourgoods Market is the mill’s most popular event, showcasing more than 100 specialty traders, such as local farmers, fine-food purveyors, organic merchants, bakers, distributors, grocers, butchers, artisan producers, celebrated chefs, and micro-enterprises.
Rivertown Precinct, Durban
Formerly a light industrial area, the Rivertown Precinct, located between the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and the beachfront, is Durban’s most noteworthy cultural revival initiative.
There you’ll find Curiocity, a budget backpackers hostel that is a walk from popular destinations like the beachfront. Then there’s the popular 8 Morrison Street which offers shared office spaces for creatives. One of Durban’s sons of street art, Louis de Villiers, better known as Skullboy, is responsible for the eye-catching mural at the building’s entrance. His mostly monochromatic work touches on taboo subjects such as sex, religion and drugs, as well as social and political truths.
Pictures: Rejuvenation Pics