In a global context of rapid inner city regeneration, Johannesburg’s Maboneng district has to be one of the most exciting case studies. Actually, forget case study, this is Johannesburg, the gateway to Africa. And this is new Africa. Case study to observe from afar, this is not. A must-visit, and immerse yourself in, place of life, this most definitely is.

What artists start, others build on, and quickly, what was once an abandoned industrial area in a poor part of the city is now a microcosm of a fresh global consciousness with a uniquely South African flavour. Shared workspaces, galleries, studios, book shops, pop-up restaurants, bike rentals – now play host to creative and cultural exchange and are pushing this city forward. Welcome to Maboneng. It means ‘place of light’ in Sotho after all.

In two short days we did the following:

  • –  Danced at Pata Pata. You are eating and the musicians are playing and then the people are dancing, OK? Just do it, whitey!
  • –  Watched an art house movie at The Bioscope independent cinema. Can’t say the experimental horror film was exactly up my street, but it’s a cool space. With the exponential increase of videographers, directors and documentary makers wherever you go, this is a neat space for showcasing new work and bringing people together.
  • –  Cycled the Johannesburg Critical Mass night ride. Joining in from Maboneng and finishing off in Hillbrow. Reclaiming the streets of this proud and determined city with our wheels .
  • –  Ate the famous Blackanese sushi. YUM.
  • –  Ate some more at Crisp Kitchen. Oxtail stew, to be precise, with a couple beers from the local offie. The yummiest food we had, but it was a close call!
  • –  Ate some more at Sharp Shisa Nyama, the pop up braai spot (come together, cook meat, be happy). Do you know what pap is? Do you know what a boerie roll is? Do you know what chakalaka is? Go! Go and find out for yourself. Then rub your belly in delight.
  • –  Er, ate some more…at Little Addis. Stunning, delicate Ethiopian cuisine.
  • –  Ate some more at Eat Your Heart Out (chocolate cake, carrot cake and everyone’s favourite: a toasted chicken sandwich).
  • –  Attended a comedy night in the Pop Art space. Far from a seedy comedy club, this hosts plays as well as live music – all from up and coming writers and actors from Johannesburg. As well as the occasional stint from a more experienced Jozi brother (or sister).
  • –  Slept soundly in the awesome 12 Decades Hotel. The decor in each room was commissioned from a Jozi artist and has it’s own unique style and interpretation of the theme of ‘people of the city’. It was awesome to stay in the heart of Maboneng. Another option, if you want to hang with the Jozi crew, is the Curiocity Backpackers just up the road. Shared vegetable and herb gardens support the open and well lit shared kitchen. With a bespoke Maboneng jacuzzi, for the younger ones perhaps.
  • –  Oh, and one more for the foodies: breakfast at Canteen in Arts On Main. Not to be missed! Starting your day in this garden oasis is definitely the way forward. Alternatively, grab a fresh smoothie from Uncle Merv’s. The Xander Jackson was our fave (pineapple, coconut milk, orange & banana).

Welcome to Maboneng. Welcome to the place of light. followme2AFRICA.

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