Braamfontein Alleyway

In the recently regenerated suburb of Braamfontein – undergoing rapid gentrification and infiltrated by high-waisted pants, cardigans and a fleet of fixies – between the ubiquitous typeface-is-king coffee houses, taco-selling food trucks and underground book shops, you’ll still pass gritty little nooks and terror-inducing alleys down which you’d likely be loath to walk, even after one too many craft beers. However The Braamfontein Improvement District (BID) and the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) are in the business of changing that, placing a tender in 2013 for public space upgrades that will ensure this hip young set is free to appreciate culture and safe enough to pedal home through the alleys without having their beards ruffled. And plenty of culture there will be. In conceptualising the project, the JDA and BID agreed that artwork was centrally important and proposed that Braamfontein would be ‘transformed into an open air art gallery’. Contemporary art production company The Trinity Session came on board, running a workshop with local artists, ten of whom’s submissions will be featured on the streets of Braamfontein. Among those to have already come to fruition is Seasons of Change by Nolan Oswald Dennis and Lisolomzi Pikoli, snaking up the side of the alley behind 81 Korte Street towards an umbrella installation (#braamumbrellas, @BraamfonteinMD). Complementing this on the opposite side of the alley are Phumla Gqada’s painted umbrellas, which gently float up the wall towards their hanging counterparts. That’s just the start. More projects include construction to fix cracked walkways and the introduction of learning centres, brightly painted security control rooms, collaborative work spaces and even revamped public toilets (check out the cool mosaiced ones just off Reserve Street). With all of this on the horizon, from art and promising start-ups to smartly curated stores and coffee houses on every street, you don’t need to be a craft beer-sipping, skinny jean-wearing, sunset-Instagramming Hemingway devotee to be inspired and delighted by Braamfontein’s creative revival. Keep up with the developments at and at Text Jessica Ross Photographs Katie Engelbrecht