Maboneng is a shining example of the Urban Development Zone tax incentive and the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) working together in perfect harmony to create something spectacular. Billed as the heart of the CBD, Maboneng is a creative space with a thriving economic spirit and a strong cultural thread running through it all.
Situated in the east of Johannesburg, Maboneng, (Sesotho for place of light) is living up to its name. Art galleries, urban artists, retailers and studios fill the vibrant streets of this district, extending from Joe Slovo Drive to Macintyre Street and along Marshall Street and Albertina Sisulu Road. The building of Arts on Main triggered the overwhelming development of the area, all the brainchild of developer Jonathan Liebmann. He purchased old offices and warehouses, and worked with architect Enrico Daffonchio to transform these spaces into the now famous Maboneng precinct.
Lebo Ramoreboli, deputy director of integrated regional economic development at the City of Johannesburg, indicated that Arts on Main is often considered the pioneering development in the area. According to Ramoreboli, it helped ignite further investment into the area, which has now resulted in a strong sense of community alongside the impressive retail, office and residential spaces of Maboneng.
Visitors can visit more than just the workshops and galleries of Arts on Main; as they drive into the area from the M2, they see the remarkable Shadow Boxer mural. This incredible painting took a mere four days to complete and was done after the passing of Nelson Mandela. It is a symbol of the fighting spirit of South Africa and the city of Johannesburg and is a testament to the great man himself. It was painted by Ricky Lee Gordon and commissioned by the Maboneng precinct.
The brilliant Bioscope is also situated in Maboneng. This is one of South Africa’s few independent cinemas, where indie films and artistic minds meet in appreciation of the cinematic form. Films made by South Africans and international visitors are on offer on a regular basis, making it an interesting venue for tourists and locals alike.
“Another place which captures the artistic heart of Maboneng is the Museum of African Design, where art and creativity from African talent is always on display,” says Ramoreboli. “Exhibitions include artworks, architectural innovation, sculptures and even chocolate printing.”
Maboneng has some of South Africa’s most eclectic restaurants and fusion flavours on offer with The Blackanese, a blend of African and Asian food; Smack! Republic, serving craft beers inspired by the district; and the Living Room, situated atop the tallest building in Maboneng and perfect for sunset drinks and snacks. Market on Main is the sister to the Arts complex, but it appeals to the artist’s stomach with an impressive selection of artisan foods and dishes. Visitors can expect to enjoy different cheeses, flavours from across the African continent and homemade pies and burgers to take the edge off any appetite.
“Maboneng is one of the inner city’s most vibrant and exciting success stories,” concludes Ramoreboli. “People, particularly the youth, love coming to the area time and time again as it exudes cultural and artistic energy at every turn. Tourism to the area is growing and investors have seen a return which perhaps even they did not expect.”