Exploring the Youth Revival of Durban

© South African Tourism / Flickr
© South African Tourism / Flickr
Always considered the city that lagged behind, Durban has seen some big infrastructure changes that has led to an urban renewal where young people are finally beginning to thrive in a supportive and creative environment. We take a look at how this happened.

About ten years ago, if you were a young person in Durban looking to expand your career prospects, chances are you would pack your bag and head to a big city like Johannesburg or Cape Town. But thanks to a number of urban renewal city schemes, Durban has become a rising star that intends to not only keep its talent but grow it too. The city has seen the emergence of a number of creative spaces, local brands, studios, coffeeshops, and design competitions that have reinvigorated the youth scene in Durban.

Station Drive Precinct

A number of inner city suburbs have been redeveloped into hip and happening new places. Station Drive Precinct is one of the hottest new neighbourhood in Durban. Previously a no-go area, it has been transformed into a hip area where light industrial meets residential. Home to a craft brewery, restaurants, and clothing designers, it also hosts the hipster Morning Trade Market every Sunday morning. It’s close to the beaches and Durban’s city center and its proximity to arterial routes make it easy to get around. Collaborative spaces are becoming a popular choice in Durban and Station Drive Precinct is no exception; The Foundry is housed in a renovated old clothing factory store which is now a creative hub consisting of floors of workshops, studios, and co-working offices and spaces. The Commune in the Precinct is a collaborative creative space that houses brands such as Jane Sews, a local clothing brand by a young Durban designer. There’s also some mean graffiti on the walls to photograph and it’s a welcome new space for young people looking for change in a once stagnant city. The creation of cool communal spaces have encouraged local creatives to stay in the city and shared spaces not only makes for a good creative atmosphere but they also help young entrepreneurs cut down costs. Read our list for best places to co work in Durban here.

Rivertown Precinct is one of the inner city redevelopment projects in Durban © Louis de Villiers

Rivertown Precinct

Another recent development project is the Rivertown district. The developers who created Jo’burg’s successful Maboneng Precinct (a rundown area turned hip hub) are now working their magic on the seaside city’s Rivertown district. It’s an inner city revival project which aims to reignite Durban’s deserted and neglected spaces in the CBD. Its key attraction is 8 Morrison Street, which was formally a warehouse. “Office pods,” which offer flexible workspaces, cover the ground and first floor. Every month the venue plays host to the food and craft market Smarket. This newly designed creative hub offers space for startups, creatives, and entrepreneur-like emerging artists, musicians, and photographers. The Rivertown shed and Rivertown beerhall are fast becoming an excellent venue choice for bands, openings, conferences, and creative competitions. Such spaces have allowed young designers an opportunity to plunge into previously untested waters in Durban; for example, local designer Thiran Moodley started his own fashion label, Spine, a punk men’s ware label that operates out of the Rivertown District, a feat that would have seemed impossible in the coastal city before.

Clothing start ups such as Spine have found a space to flourish in new urban renewal programs in the city Courtesy of Thiran Moodley

North Beach

The 2010 World Cup also saw the development of North beach, with an uplift to the promenade and a new stadium surrounded by shops and cafés. North beach boasts an updated hip skate park with graffiti, a beach café, and a number of new outdoor activities that include beach yoga, sunrise dance sessions, surfing, and hiring bicycles to ride down the promenade that stretches from the Moses Mabhida Stadium to Ushaka Marine World.

Near the © Siraj Paruk


Then there’s Morningside, a hip area that has always been ahead of the pack in Durban, but that has now grown to a bigger hangout spot with a range of new eating places, new street art, and some trendy art galleries and stores. Florida Road is a tree-lined road displaying restored Victorian and Edwardian buildings and has more than two kilometers of restaurants, pubs, coffeeshops, art galleries, and eclectic little shops; it has become synonymous with Durban’s nightlife. At the end of the street you can also find The African Art Centre for curios or jewelry made by local artists. Running parallel to this street you can find Windermere Road with its own cool coffee shops, eating places, and even a mall.

Florida Road in Morningside has become a hot nightspot © Clive Reid/Flikr


The city has also seen a number of hip food and craft markets crop up as a demand for unique, quality-made, and locally sourced products increase. Markets like the Musgrave rooftop night market and I heart market have placed particular emphasis on locally made and sourced goods encouraging people to invest in the city’s entrepreneurs. Of late there has been a surge of local food entrepreneurs experimenting with dishes like Roti & Chai, an Indian food stall that serves tandoori chicken wraps and Sugarlicious macarons, a dessert brand that serves macarons with ice cream as a filling. They make up a list of numerous other food stalls in Durban.

Durban’s I Heart Market only stocks locally made products © Shubnum Khan
A slew of cool and innovative eating places have opened up in Durban © Shubnum Khan


Besides a slew of hip places, the city has also seen an investment in programs for young people in the form of sports and art. Interpret Durban is a creative competition that calls out to creatives in the field of photography, visual arts, illustration video, and so on to participate in the 8th Interpret Durban creative competition. Young people in Durban are encouraged to get creative as possible to express a new theme every year and a host of judges then choose a winner in each category. Prizes range from exhibitions with local art galleries to cash prizes that will help fund future projects. It’s fast becoming one of the most talked about creative prizes in Durban. Buzz Art, a local creative fair held by popular art gallery KZNSA has also helped invigorate a burgeoning young art scene in Durban. Street art has emerged with a flourish in Durban, with some locals making a big name for themselves with increasingly large and detailed artworks that are changing the landscape of the city.

The street art scene in Durban has grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years © Louis de Villiers