"I am because we are."
While you were sleeping, Johannesburg, South Africa birthed and bred one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods. We can’t take our eyes off of the Maboneng Precinct!
Just 10 years ago, this section of the inner city was bought in the noble intention of creating an arts neighbourhood. Today, the neighbourhood is so much more than a few streets with art galleries. The streets themselves are galleries, showcasing world-class art (but we’ll touch on that later) and the buildings are built for residents, events, and - thankfully for our taste buds - food and drink.
“Johannesburg not a landscape city. It’s a people city.”
Johannesburg might not have the beaches of Cape Town or the wildlife of the national parks to draw in visitors. But unquestionably, Johannesburg is the soul of South Africa. Within the city and within its short life so far, Maboneng has already proven that it carries the soul of the soul of South Africa. By walking around the precinct, it becomes obvious that Maboneng embodies ubuntu, or the spirit of humanity, a concept that is very near and dear to the heart of South Africans.
And in its very South African manner of reinvention and renaissance, Maboneng showcases just how cool Joburg can be! The neighbourhood is unmistakably hipster. There are apartment buildings made out of shipping containers, odes to Nelson Mandela and other South African heroes, Joburg’s only independent theatre, and too many Instagrammable bars to name. But behind the aesthetic is real heart and soul.
Artists from South Africa and beyond - including Kim Lieberman and Nelson Makamo - have descended upon the city to lay down their works on the streets and on the buildings, giving colour and narrative to the city. But more importantly, they have made art and expression a very public, approachable, inclusive experience for everyone to have.
Inside the walls of Maboneng’s newest buildings, art takes on different forms. The Marabi Club has become a leader in the world’s jazz scene with patrons like Beyonce giving their seal of approval. Bioscope has claimed the title of Johannesburg’s only independent cinema. And the Museum of African Design is actually the first museum dedicated to design on the entire continent.
Food and drink - arts unto themselves - get their own space to shine. Before its rebirth, Maboneng hosted street vendors hawking their delicious dishes separately, competing for space and customers. Now, they share a gorgeous communal space at Market on Main. Standing on their own, there are coffee shops, bakeries, cafes, and wine bars up and down the streets of Maboneng offering an eclectic, inspired mix of traditional South African cuisine and cafe fare classics. At night, the bars rage on until the early hours of the morning - especially on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
If this is what a neighbourhood in the inner city of Johannesburg can become in a decade, we can’t wait to see what grows in the next 10 years!