What to do in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct

Mabonengs Fox Street is always bustling with locals, especially at the weekends
Maboneng's Fox Street is always bustling with locals, especially at the weekends | © Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 4 / Alamy Stock Photo
Heather Mason

Maboneng, which means “place of light” in Sotho (one of South Africa’s 11 official languages), was purposefully created by property developers in the late 2000s. Formerly a nondescript industrial area populated by warehouses, Maboneng has become one of the inner city’s most popular arts and culture hubs.

Maboneng’s Fox Street and the surrounding side streets are a hive of activity, especially on weekends, and it can be hard to decide what to see and do first. Here are some of the highlights.

Market On Main

Maboneng’s artisanal food and clothing market, Market on Main, has been a top Sunday morning destination for the past decade. Located in Maboneng’s “Arts on Main” complex, the market’s downstairs portion is populated by food vendors selling everything from Asian dim sum to traditional South African vetkoek (delectable balls of fried dough). Upstairs, visitors will find a bonanza of vintage clothing stalls, jewellery designers, and the “I Was Shot in Joburg” shop selling unique local souvenirs.

Centre for the Less Good Idea

Also located in Arts on Main, the Centre for the Less Good Idea is an avant-garde theatre company and experimental arts “incubator space”, founded by prominent South African artist William Kentridge. The Centre’s performances are always thought-provoking and push the boundaries of conventional art and theatre. Check online for upcoming shows.

David Krut Bookstore

David Krut, with locations in Maboneng and Rosebank, is the best place in town to find South African art and travel books, as well as prints by high-profile South African artists. It’s a great place to browse while supporting local artists and authors.

The Bioscope

A tiny, independent movie house, the Bioscope was one of Maboneng’s original tenants and specialises in African art-house films and documentaries. With only a few dozen seats facing a relatively small screen, watching films at the Bioscope is an intimate experience. Chalk Board, the adjoining café, offers moviegoers popcorn, pizza and craft beer before the show.

Popart

POPArt, which stands for People of Performing Art, is another long-standing Maboneng tenant offering a regular lineup of experimental theatre performances. Founded and run by women, POPArt’s shows often give voice to South Africa’s marginalised populations that are underrepresented in the mainstream art world.

Curiocity

Curiocity, on the eastern end of Fox Street, is one of Joburg’s hippest youth hostels. But Curiocity offers much more than accommodation. Near the entrance, the Hideout Bar is a popular drinking spot for locals and tourists alike. Curiocity also hosts a wide range of activities, including walking tours of Maboneng and surrounding areas, skateboarding tours and the ever-popular pub crawl, which takes visitors to underground bars they’d struggle to find on their own.

Outdoor Street Art and Shopping

Over the past several years, Maboneng’s Fox Street corridor between Berea Road and Auret Street has become a haven for informal art vendors. The sidewalks are packed with friendly hawkers selling batik paintings, clothes, handbags, sculptures and jewellery. Fox Street is one of the best places in town to shop for South African souvenirs. The building walls in Maboneng are also filled with street art — from casual graffiti pieces to large-scale, commissioned murals. Allow an hour or two to wander up and down Fox Street, taking in the scenery and shooting plenty of photos.

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