The Zebra Inn: Johannesburg’s Capital of Quirk

The Zebra Inn on Albertina Sisulu Road in Jeppestown.

The Zebra Inn on Albertina Sisulu Road in Jeppestown. Image by Heather Mason.

The Zebra Inn… How shall I describe it?

In simplest terms, the Zebra Inn is a bar: a cool, semi-dark place to enjoy a beer while listening to the jukebox and chatting with the inn’s owner, Swazi Werner, and his partner, Lucille.

But the word “bar” doesn’t begin to describe what the Zebra Inn – whose exterior walls and roof are slathered with boldly painted black-and-white zebra stripes – has to offer.

Inside the Zebra Inn. Image by Heather Mason.

Inside the Zebra Inn. Image by Heather Mason.

The Zebra Inn is a nightclub. Opened nine years ago on Albertina Sisulu Road (formerly Market Street) in Jeppestown, when this section of Joburg was still neglected and run-down, the Zebra Inn is now smack in the middle of the rejuvenated Maboneng Precinct. The inn’s fortuitous location has brought a surprise windfall; hipsters flock there on Friday and Saturday nights, downing cocktails and jiving to live deejay mixes.

The Zebra Inn is a trophy room. Swazi, a legendary big-game hunter, has lined the walls with dozens (maybe hundreds) of stuffed wildlife busts – birds, monkeys, buffalo, antelope, a giraffe and a prominently placed zebra. The skin of a 100kg African rock python, which Swazi shot 20 years ago after the snake was injured by a spear, stretches above the entire length of the wooden bar.

The Zebra Inn is a woodworking studio. On the ground floor below the bar, Swazi builds made-to-order furniture, speakers and anything else that can be made from wood.

Swazi Werner, owner of the Zebra Inn, handles one of hundreds of African artworks that he has stored in the bar's basement.

Swazi Werner, owner of the Zebra Inn, handles one of hundreds of African artworks that he has stored in the bar’s basement. Image by Heather Mason.

The Zebra Inn is an art gallery and a library. After decades of travelling in Africa, Swazi has collected thousands of books, records, antiquities and dazzling pieces of traditional African art. Swazi’s private collection occupies several rooms below the bar, which he hopes to open to the public once he gets everything ordered and archived. (In the meantime, Swazi might show you his collection if you ask nicely.)

Above all, the Zebra Inn is Joburg. Stop in for a visit and leave with a better understanding of what this city is about.

The Zebra Inn is at 252 Albertina Sisulu Road, Jeppestown, and is open seven days a week from 12pm until late. To enter, approach the door to the left of the garage and press the buzzer. Once buzzed inside, climb the stairs to the bar.

Bheki Dube, owner of the nearby Curiocity Backpackers, often visits with Swazi at the Zebra Inn. Image by Heather Mason.

Bheki Dube, owner of the nearby Curiocity Backpackers, often visits with Swazi at the Zebra Inn. Image by Heather Mason.

One thought on “The Zebra Inn: Johannesburg’s Capital of Quirk

  • 22nd July 2015 at 7:27 pm
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    Swazi Werner! What a legend and a character of note

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