Fashion, Art, & Cake in Jozi City, SA

6:09 AM Jessica Montgomery 0 Comments

A Day Trip to Johannesburg, South Africa

     Johannesburg, like my home city of Detroit, is plagued by a violent and derelict reputation. But, also like Detroit, there are generations of people and neighborhoods coming together with a bright new outlook for their city. 

     And it's working.

     It's an outlook of regeneration,; neighborhood by neighborhood, focused on growth through art, food, fashion, music, and more. 

'Beauty will save the world' - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

     With this in mind, my South African tour guide, confidant, and lug of a boyfriend, Chris and I took to the streets to see what was turning Johannesburg around for the better.
     We started in Braamfontein; a colorful central suburb of Joburg featuring pop up restaurants, music shops, high end boutique retail, kitschy overpriced coffee shops, and quirky public art. Those five things alone are enough to create a fun, young and bustling, hip, urban experience regardless of what country you happen to find yourself in.  Chris used to work in the Braamfontein area and was, in turn, virtually blown away by the positive changes to the neighborhood. Upon further research, it turns out that the revival of the Braamfontein area started about 10 years ago as a way to protect corporate investment buildings;  though obviously this has spread out into a spill of galleries and other cultural hubs. 

     Walking around Braamfontein each street corner greeted us with color and quirkiness. Almost no wall was free from the cover of street art and the people walking by were just as eclectic; dressed with a colorful, no qualms style all their own. (~I've actually been inspired to do a strictly Joburg Fashion post since visiting the city. Keep a look out for that post coming soon!)  We were even privileged enough to splurge on a coffee and cake; eaten outside the storefront on the sidewalk to take in the sights. The public sidewalk. In plain view, free of gates.  Superb. 
     Braamfontein is also home to the Neighborhood Goods Market.  Another parallel to Detroit with its Eastern Market, the Neighborhood Goods Market features farm fresh delicacies juxtaposed with murals and community stewardship and ideas. Unfortunately the NGM is only open on Saturdays, therefore we missed it. But! I intend to make a trip back to Braamfontein especially to experience this.

Colorful Braamfontein

     Maboneng might be one of the newest (and smallest) cultural hubs of Joburg, but it packs quite a bunch. We walked around the few streets of the Maboneng district for quite some time and was besieged by street art at every turn. The entire district seemed to have evolved, layer after layer, into a curated piece. 
     The Maboneng precinct is a privately developed neighborhood featuring privately owned shops, galleries, studios, theaters, and cafes. The location itself isn't ideal, but once you're inside the arts district it's rewarding and a feast for the explorer's eyes.

     From an outsider's perspective, such as yours truly, Maboneng seems to have an exclusive side to it. That, without an insider's view or connection, it may be hard to crack. But, since it's a newly reformed district brought about by a private company, I can understand this. Grand Rapids, Michigan, now known as "the city that artists built", has a district similar to this known as Heartside. It too has slowly and enthusiastically changed over the years to turn around from being strictly known for its homeless population to now being known for its art. Though this district can be appreciated by all, it is a tad exclusive to get into being aware or in the know of all that it has to offer. 

Shopping for colorful, handmade, pieces in Maboneng

     We drove around to a few other parts of town, but both Braamfontein and Maboneng are the boroughs that stood out to me. I highly recommend that if you happen to find yourself in Johannesburg for the day you make the trip out to both.
     I enjoy a trip to a city every now and again, but I wouldn't ever strive to live the city life. Johannesburg on the other hand, sparked the thought that maybe one day... I could. Maybe one day I could make the jump to live in a borough. Those who've made the first move are brave and I respect them for what they're striving to do. Good on them`!

Fabulous Maboneng street art

      As a native suburban-Detroiter, I can't help but draw parallels between Johannesburg and Detroit. They've both had their supposed  "heydays"  pre-desegregation, they've both have fallen victim to corrupt and greedy governments, and now they're both finding renewal, hope, and progress.
     Now, I'm not saying that Johannesburg is "safe" by any means. It still has its fair share of problems and should be treated as such. The same goes for Detroit. But. That doesn't mean that these cities should be left to crumble in the dust. There is so much opportunity and promise here. And if you don't see that, or are too afraid to, you are the one that is going to be left in the dust.

'Before I Die', street art in Maboneng, Johannesburg

Also! Johannesburg has Chappie and Detroit has Robocop.   Just saying...
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