Art walks in Johannesburg
Did you know?
The Banner of Hope steel sculpture of the South African flag in Newtown symbolises South Africa's celebration of freedom. It is three stories high and 7m wide.
Johannesburg has invested in public artworks that celebrate the heritage of the city (local government spends a percentage of its yearly budget on public art). For those interested in Jozi’s art, walks through the city are just one way to discover its creative diversity. From leisurely walking tours that last an hour or two to full-day walks that focus on additional art precincts, you will find artworks dotted along the busy streets, between the tall buildings, in the parks and on the pavements.
There are a few notable tourism companies that offer guided tours of Johannesburg's art precincts:
- Past Experiences offers walking tours and public transport tours that showcase the city's art. The company is passionate about sharing this with the public. Jo Buitendach, a tour guide with the company and a Johannesburg city specialist says, 'The great thing about public art is that it is art for everyone. Anyone can experience it as it's out on the streets, not hidden away in an art gallery. Public art brings culture and colour to the streets of Johannesburg and aids the regeneration of the city.'
- Art-lover Chava Caplan runs personalised art tours around the city, on request, through her company, Afro Centric Jo'burg Art Tours.
In Braamfontein, art walks take you past works such as the metal trees by Stephen Hobbs and Claire Regnard, and Miners' Monument by David MacGregor, which is a reminder of Johannesburg's mining past. Also prominent is Clive van den Berg’s Eland, which is more than 5.5m tall and weighs more than 20 tonnes.
A walk through Newtown will take you past the Banner of Hope by Truus Menger; a memorial to singer Brenda Fassie by Angus Taylor; and a tribute to Kippie Moeketsi by Guy du Toit, in which the musician is depicted holding his favourite instrument – a saxophone. Visitors can also visit the incredible artwork of wooden heads by Americo Guambe.
There is also a foot tour of resistance art in Jo'burg. Here visitors will discover the imposing Firewalker by William Kentridge and Gerard Marx – a sculpture of a woman carrying a brazier on her head, referencing everyday life in Johannesburg; the Metro Mall Public Artwork Programme that features work by Mbongeni Buthelezi, Ezekiel Budeli and Andrew Verster; and Paper Pigeon by Gerhard and Maja Marx. In this work, three 3m-tall origami-like pigeon sculptures keep hundreds of live pigeons company at Pigeon Square – the use of origami-like techniques is a tribute to the Chinese community of this part of the city.
In Hillbrow, the city's cultural melting pot, public artworks include Courage by Richard Forbes; the wind vanes by Dave Rossouw; the Joe Slovo bridge mosaic by Lindsay; and Elevator by Richard Forbes.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)11 678 3905
Afro Centric Jo'burg Art Tours
Tel: +27 (0)82 969 3938
Tel: +27 (0) 11 639 1600
Best time to visit
Chat to your tour guide about starting times, as these vary from tour to tour.
Around the area
The Grayscale Gallery and the Kalashnikov Gallery in Braamfontein, the Artist Proof Studio at Arts on Main or the Spaza Gallery all offer insights into Johannesburg's thriving art scene.
Tours to do
If you enjoy all things creative, you might also want to consider the 'Through the Lens – 125 years of Johannesburg Photography' tour by Past Experiences.
What will it cost
Organised budget walking tours of Johannesburg with Past Experiences cost between R100 and R150 per person, depending on the distance and duration of the tour (this rate is generally for a two-hour tour). There are group rates and special packages on offer on a half-day and full-day basis. Tours are generally organised for weekends. Afro Centric Jo'burg Art Tours offers half-day city tours for R350 (lunch not included).
What to pack
A good pair of walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
Where to stay
Stay in downtown Johannesburg at the 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel in the creative Maboneng Precinct. Also consider staying at Hotel Lamunu in Braamfontein.
What to eat
Jozi's art districts are home to some great restaurants where you can sample authentic South African fare. Ask your guide to make a recommendation.
Work from local artists. In Johannesburg you can also buy wire art on the street corners.