A directory of Johannesburg's public art

07 Mar 2024
We've shared a guide to some of our favourite spots where you can see public art in Joburg, but a far more comprehensive resource comes courtesy of the City of Johannesburg's Arts, Culture, and Heritage directorate, which has published an online catalogue of public art in the city

Existing outside the confines of gallery spaces, public installations democratise art in a way that's good for a city and its people. There's an element of spontaneity at play, as encounters with art happen in unexpected places. Public art can deepen your relationship with art during your daily commute, or routes travelled frequently become woven into your tapestry of the city. As time goes by, your resonance with the work may grow in a way that simply isn't possible with temporary exhibits.
In Soweto's Vilakazi Street, the student uprising of June 1976 is remembered in a wire sculpture by Stone Mabunda. Photo: City of Johannesburg.

Often paying homage to key historical figures and events, Joburg's public art reflects our country's complex past and has much to say to our present society. New layers of meaning emerge continuously as pieces age and their surroundings change. We were excited to discover the City of Johannesburg's Arts, Culture, and Heritage directorate's brilliant effort to chronicle Joburg's public art, which can be found in its entirety here. More than 70 artworks are documented, with information and a Google Maps location for each piece. The directory gives fascinating insight into the artworks dotted around the city and the breadth of what they commemorate.

Along Bertrams Road in New Doornfontein, you'll find the Battle of Ellis Park Mosaic, created by Spaza Art Gallery and Khula Udweba Community Arts Centre in Bertrams. This arresting piece draws the strike and armed uprising of white miners in the Witswatersrand region in 1922, known as the Rand Revolt, into conversation with the xenophobic violence against foreign nationals in the Ellis Park precinct in 2008.
One of the historic houses along Erin Street hosts the Battle of Ellis Park mosaic. Photo: City of Johannesburg.

In the forecourt of the Johannesburg City Library and fiercely facing the Gauteng Legislature (the old City Hall), Lawrence Lemaoana's monumental bronze statue Democracy is Dialogue depicts a black woman demonstrator carrying a baby on her back. Her message carries particular potency in light of the Johannesburg City Library's ongoing closure.

Anti-apartheid gathering the Congress of the People met in Kliptown in 1955 to discuss and ratify the revolutionary Freedom Charter, giving voice to thousands across the country. Marking its 50th anniversary with the opening of the new Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown in 2005, Usha Seejarim's 10 slate, concrete, and steel sculptures represent the Freedom Charter's 10 clauses.
A mother marches with Molotov in hand in Lawrence Lemaoana's thought-provoking statue. Photo: City of Johannesburg.

Around the construction of the Johannesburg Civic Theatre, German-born sculptor Ernest Ullmann (who moved to South Africa in 1935) was commissioned to create The Playmakers. These three women holding hands in a circle on Civic Boulevard in Braamfontein are one of the older public artworks erected in the City Centre. 

Marking one of the major entry points to the City Centre, Batswana sculptor Shepherd Ndudzo was commissioned to create a gateway to Jewel City (an extension of the Maboneng Precinct) when the area underwent upgrades in 2008. The elongated diamond is made from cut granite and carved wood, a marriage of opposites. 
Ernest Ullmann's The Playmakers dance tenderly outside the Joburg Theatre. Photo: City of Johannesburg.

Vilakazi Street in Soweto was home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, who were recognised as Nobel Laureates 10 years apart. The Steel Bull by Mboya Moroa pays homage to these South African heroes, taking a playful cue from the African saying that two bulls can't be kept in the same kraal. In reality, the two men enjoyed a warm and co-operative relationship, speaking of one another with reverence. Mandela named Tutu the "voice of the voiceless" while Tutu said of Madiba that "God clearly had a soft spot for us because He gave us a memorable man". Also along Soweto's historic Vilakazi Street, a metalwork wire sculpture by Stone Mabunda commemorates the student uprising on June 16, 1976.
An ode to legendary South Africans Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu in Soweto. Photo: City of Johannesburg.

To give real-world experience of some of these astonishing works, the Arts Alive Festival hosted the Joburg Top 20 tour of important public artworks dotting the city on Sat, Feb 10 and Sat, Feb 24, 2024. Eric Itzkin, head of heritage for the City of Johannesburg, lead the tours with Palesa Mnyaka, public culture manager for the City. Those who had the pleasure of going on these tours visited more than 20 public works of art, starting at  the Randjeslaagte Beacon Mosaic, which marks the spot where Joburg began in 1886. The tours proved immensely popular and both were fully booked out. If you missed out, don't despair. Because the artworks are public, they wait to be visited at your own leisure. If you'd like to plot out your own route to find your favourite, we've put together a full list of all the artworks seen on the tour.

1. Randjeslaagte Beacon Mosaic by Andrew Lindsay and Spaza Art Gallery assisted by Moses Ndlovu, Deryck St. George’s, Tshepo Maputle, and Coenie Strydom, and the Bertram’s Womens’ Mosaic group : 1-2 Boundary Road, Houghton Estate
2. The Messenger by Marco Cianfanelli: Pieter Roos Park, Corner Empire Road and Victoria Avenue
3. Miner's Monument by David Macgregor: 129-132 De Korte St, Wanderers View Estate
4. Nzundza Portrait by Hannelie Coetzee : Cnr Melle and Jorissen Streets, Braamfotein
5. Homeless Jesus by Timothy P. Schmalz: Outside the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 16 Stiemens Street, Braamfontein
6. Mosaic Compass  designed by Andrew Lindsay and completed by Spaza Gallery: Indwe Park, 2 Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein
7. Eland by Clive van den Berg: Cnr of Jan Smuts Avenue (changing to) Bertha Street and Ameshoff Street, Braamfontein
8. Juta Street Trees by Claire Regnard and the Imbali Visual Literacy Project: Juta Street, Braamfontein
9. Firewalker by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx: Cnr Simmonds and Sauer Street, City Centre
10. Mother and Child by Simon Mthimkhulu, Ezekiel Budeli, and Tshidiso Makhete: 190-170 Lilian Ngoyi Street, Newtown
11. Tribute to Kippie Moeketsie by Guy du Toit and Egon Tania: Pedestrian walkway between Miriam Makeba Street and the extension of Gwigwi Mrwebi Street, Newtown
12. Brenda Fassie by Angus Taylor: 56 Margaret Mcingana Street, Newtown
13. Newtown Heads by a team lead by Americo Guambe: Newtown Cultural Precinct, from Quinn to Sauer Street, Newtown
14. Paper Pigons by Maja Marx and Gerhard Max: Corner Miriam Makeba Street and Albertina Sisulu Road, Ferreirasdorp
15. Statue of a Municipal Worker by the Spaza Art Team including Drew Lindsay, Jacob Ramaboya, Filipe Fernandez, and Agrippa Nhlapo: Workers’ Museum, 52 Rahima Moosa Street, Newtown
16. Tribute to Walter and Albertina Sisulu by Marina Walsh: Intersection of Diagonal, Ntemi Piliso, and Albertina Sisulu Streets, City Centre
17. Shadow Boxer by Marco Cianfanelli: Cnr Fox and Gerard Sekoto Streets, Ferreirasdorp
18. Impala Stampede by Hermann Wald: 45 Main Street in the Main Street Precinct, Marshaltown
19. Monument to the Black Mineworker by Andile Maswangelwa: Cnr Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Main Streets, Marshaltown
20. Mapungubwe Rhino replica by an unknown artist: 82-76 Main Street, Marshalltown
21. M.K. Gandhi Attorney at Law by Tinka Christopher: Gandhi Square, City Centre
22. Newspaper Vendor by Russell Scott: 40-38 Von Brandis Street, Marshalltown
23. 4 Angels by Zamo Gumede and Spaza Art Gallery: 61-63 Beit Street, New Doornfontein
24. Mosaic Pillars by Andrew Lindsay and Spaza Art Gallery: 15 Joe Slovo Drive, New Doornfontein


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