Public Art in Joburg – the West Side Story Part 1

Taking a walk in Joburg’s inner-city city may just surprise you for all the right reasons… [The brilliant photos are by Wesley Poon]

Ask anyone who lives here to describe the city of Joburg and they rarely extol its beauty. Mostly they point out it’s a city without a sea and until the Nelson Mandela Bridge it was a city without any remarkable landmarks that aren’t communication towers or apartment blocks. And those are the polite remarks.

Over the past five years, it’s a little known fact that the city has installed an impressive and growing number of public artworks – at last count at more than 50 sites. In 2006 a strategy was put in place to use public art as a way of fulfilling a range of Joburg’s developing needs. It called for a public art levy, a common global practice, that would devote up to one percent of the construction budget on major city building projects to this end. This was implemented by the Johannesburg Development Agency at a time when the city has been undergoing something of a boom, and it will continue.

The unofficial public art in the city - District 9

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Braamfontein is Joburg’s Soho

194#. Read the New York Times on Braamfontein. The paper of record has called it. Braamfontein is Joburg’s version of New York’s Soho. It has urban edge, lots of design and artistic talent, and a property developer with a real eye for the city’s future. Personally I have always been fond of that neighbourhood, from student days in the early 1990s when I would spend most of my cash (and there wasn’t much of it) at the bookshop on the corner where the Braamfontein Centre now stands (looking back it was literature of the revolution – lots of Fanon, Cabral, Biko. Okay admittedly those were books that real revolutionaries would steal so this is a revealing moment) to cheap and tasty lunches at the Health Scene and a great little Italian joint whose name I don’t recall but whose veal limone I do. Continue reading