Contra.Joburg: Experience the City Centre – and South Africa's biggest open studios event

23 May 2024

Two days in the city, 13 artist studios, 200 artists, plus hundreds of artworks on sale at Contra.Joburg – a whistle-stop tour of the City Centre meets art fair on Sat, May 25 and Sun, May 26. Book your tickets now

One of Joburg's major art fairs for 2024 and the biggest open studios event in the country, we're looking forward to an art weekend out with this year's edition of Contra.Joburg. Over two days, art lovers and city fans get up close and personal with Joburg's art stars and emerging talents right where the magic happens. It's not every day that artists open their studios to the public, no less 200 of them at once.

Free shuttle transportation included in the ticket price makes navigating between studio spaces a breeze. And, at just R85 per daily ticket, you'd be hard-pressed to find more bang for your buck. 

The 13 artist studios participating in this year's event are 11 Alexander, Bag Factory, Creative Uprising Hub, Grayscale, Play Braam, Rand Club, WLMAsisebenze Art Atelier, August House, Ellis House, Living Artist Emporium, Oovookoo, and Victoria Yards.

Read more about this stellar line-up here

While studio visits are the main attraction, there are a host of other happenings in and around the studios, including guided tours, fascinating talks and panel discussions, interactive workshops, and live demonstrations.

To navigate from studio to studio with these special events in mind, use our itinerary below. The programme is different for each day, combining free and paid programming between 10:00 and 17:30. Event times are subject to change, so please check the Contra.Joburg website for updates. But first, some need-to-knows for all Contra.Joburg attendees on both days.

A family-friendly fair

On both days of Contra.Joburg, select studios will offer free kids' play areas to keep your little ones happily entertained while you get your art fill. On Sat, May 25 Bag Factory has kid-friendly activities lined up, while on Sun, May 26 both Asisebenze Art Atelier, August House, and Victoria Yards cater to younger fair-goers. 

Win great prizes

Choose your favourite artwork for the People’s Choice VUSA AWARD by Nando’s and win a prize. Take a photo or video and share it on Instagram or TikTok, along with the name of the artist. Tag @nandoscreativityofficial and and use the hashtag #NandosVusaAwards. One winner will receive a prize valued at R4,000, which includes a R1,000 Nando’s voucher, an original Creative Block artwork, plus a Nando’s swag bag.

Whether contrasting or controversial, dress to the theme "contra" at this year's event and you could win. Take a selfie at Contra.Joburg and post it on Instagram, tagging with the hashtag #ContraFashion. The winner will receive a R2,000 gift voucher from Sneaky Sundays to have their favourite pair of sneakers hand-painted by an artist.

Events on Sat, May 25

Saturday open studios: 11 Alexander, Bag Factory, Creative Uprising Hub, Grayscale, Play Braam, Rand Club, and WLM.

Hop between Marshalltown, Braamfontein, and Fordsburg enjoying open studios, historical and street art tours, panel discussions, and art workshops as part of Contra.Joburg's line-up on Sat, May 25. 

Tour of one of Joburg's most enduring social institutions and finest heritage venues at Rand Club. Photo: Rand Club.

This members-only club was founded in 1887 and is a must-visit, with spectacular interiors that recall a bygone era. Meet in the foyer for a guided tour hosted by Rand Club general manager Phil Thurston.
When: 12:00 – 12:30, 13:00 – 13:30, 14:00 – 14:30, and 15:00 – 15:30
Where: 33 Loveday Street, Marshalltown
Cost: Free

While at Rand Club, don't leave without seeing Itumeleng 'Mamase' Koloko's solo show This is a Man's World, but it Wouldn't be Anything Without a Woman or a Girl. You can also join James Findlay as he shares amazing stories about the City Centre and the Rand Club since its founding. The bookshop is downstairs from the main entrance.

Get into the groove with a series of vinyl DJ sets ranging from Afro-fusion, funk, and jazz, to alternative sounds.
When: 10:30 – 17:00
Where: 7 Loveday Street, Marshalltown
Cost: Free

Walk the colourful streets of Braamfontein and discover the stories behind the art. Photo: Supplied.

Meet outside Grayscale Gallery for one of four guided graffiti-spotting walks hosted by City Skate Tours.
When: 10:00 – 11:15, 12:00 – 13:15, 14:00 – 15:00, and 15:00 – 16:00
Where: 19 Henri Street, Braamfontein
Cost: R50 p.p. and free for under 16s, book here.

Also at Grayscale, there will be live graffiti demos all day, while multimedia artist Slegh aka Krinky Winky's solo Infekted by Dolphins is up for view.

Braamfontein's secret park is now home to the studio of Hannelie Coetzee. Photo: James Delaney.

Johannesburg-based visual artist Hannelie Coetzee's relational practice regularly centres on public spaces, where her interventions range from ephemeral to permanent. Join her for a walk through her studio within the sculpture-filled Liberty Indwe Park and along the watershed. The meeting point is the Donald Gordon Lawn.
When: 10:00 – 11:00 and 16:00 – 17:00
Where: Indwe Park at 1 Ameshof Street – 2 Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein
Cost: R120 p.p., book tickets here.

Imbali is founded on the belief that art and creativity drive meaningful social change. Photo: Imbali Visual Literacy Project.

The heart of Braamfontein's most playful district, Play Braam, hosts the Imbali Visual Literacy Project for block and screen printing demonstrations. Plus, take the kids to print their own T-shirts. 
When: 10:30 – 17:00
Where: 73 Juta Street, Braamfontein
Cost: Free

Round out the festivities with a two-for-one drinks special at Loco Mexican restaurant and tequila bar from 17:00 – 22:00.

Listen in on a fascinating discussion around the notion of art as a queer safe space at Creative Uprising Hub. A diverse group of artists and creatives will share their experiences on how art fosters a sense of community and safety for queer people.
When: 12:30 – 13:30
Where: Transwerke at Sam Hancock Street, Braampark 
Cost: Free

While at Creative Uprising Hub, see their closets/their caskets, a group exhibition of work by LGBTQIA+ image-makers (take the passage to the right when you enter the building. The exhibition is just off the courtyard). 

The artist behind iVumVum shares tips of the trade. Photo: Bag Factory.

Learn the art of monotype printing with a skilled artist from Bag Factory's stable and walk away with a work of your own. Your teacher on the day, Lebogang ‘Mogul’ Mabusela's solo show iVumVum explores South African petrol-head culture and is currently on view at the studio – be sure to check it out. The workshop is held at Studio 11.
When: 10:30 – 14:00
Where: 10 Mahlantini Street, Fordsburg 
Cost: R80 p.p., book here.

Take your young ones to the free kids' play area at Bag Factory, operating all day.

Hosted by The Printing Girls, a live printmaking demonstration at this community space for independent artists is a chance to grow your skills or learn something new. 
When: 10:30 – 17:30
Where: 11 Alexander Street, Ferreirasdorp 
Cost: Free

Events on Sun, May 26

Sunday open studios: Asisebenze Art Atelier, August House, Ellis House, Living Artist Emporium, Oovookoo, and Victoria Yards. 

Traversing Lorentzville, Doornfontein, and Troyeville, the Sun, May 26 edition of Contra.Joburg offers a tour of Nando's fabulous headquarters, a host of hands-on demos, great exhibitions, and enlightening talks. 

Revamped and better than ever, you're going to wish Nando's Central Kitchen was your head office too. Photo: Nando's.
Revamped and better than ever, you're going to wish Central Kitchen was your head office too. Photo: Nando's.

Nando's ultra-colourful, art- and design-filled headquarters, known as Central Kitchen, is an utterly inspiring space. Join for one of two guided tours.
When: 11:30 – 12:30 and 13:30 – 14:30
Where: 10a Victoria Road, Lorentzville (opposite Victoria Yards)
Cost: R80 p.p. including a welcome drink, swag bag, and a wine tasting. Book here

Learn the art of abstract mark-making with Simone Marie Farah at Victoria Yards. Photo: Simone Marie Farah.

An art-centric pop-up shop from darling indie bookstore Bridge Books and sneaker painting by Sneaky Sundays form part of the all-day roster at Victoria Yards. 
When: 10:30 – 17:00
Where: 16 Viljoen Street, Lorentzville
Cost: Free, and R250 p.p. for Abe Mathabe's sneaker painting workshop. Contact 081 817 4786 to book your spot. 

Between 10:30 and 16:00 there will be abstract mark-making demos by Simone Marie Farah while, on the same subject, artist and curator Ricky Burnett will offer some introductory remarks from 11:30 – 12:00. Following this from 12:30 – 13:30, join for a panel discussion on what it means to be custodians of the City Centre.

In two sessions from 10:30 – 12:30 and later from 14:00 – 16:00, Abe Mathabe hosts a printmaking workshop for kids and adults at Victoria Yards (R250 p.p.; message 081 817 4786 to book your spot). Also for the little ones, Play Africa hosts a kiddies' area at Victoria Yards all day. The sneaker painting demos are free, while customisation costs between R300 – R2000.

The Printing Girls bring their expertise to August House for all-day demos. Photo: Printing Girls.

Interesting exhibitions, an affordable art sale, live demonstrations, and a kids' play area are on the programme at August House.
When: 10:00 – 17:30
Where: 76 End Street, Doornfontein
Cost: Free

See Eve de Jong's The Impossible Garden and Nene Mahlungu's Where do I go when I want home, both on the fourth floor. Plus, start your art collection with your choice of 76 A5 artworks by August House residents capped at R1,000 each. Head to Studio 406 for the sale. 
From 14:00 – 15:00 Bekezela Mabena will be giving a painting demo on the August House rooftop, while The Printing Girls host printing demos from Studio 402 all day. 

Once you've got your art fix, head to an after-party at the August House rooftop from 16:30 – 22:00. Entrance is R50 p.p. with advance bookings only, buy your tickets here.

Lindo Zwane's delicate charcoal portraits portray the working women of Kwa Mai Mai. Photo: August House.

Lindo Zwane's heartfelt series Insizi Ye Bhodwe is on view at his studio at August House; a tribute to informal traders in the city – particularly the working women of Joburg's iconic Kwa Mai Mai market. Truly bringing the works to life, join the artist for a walking tour led by the team from Curiocity, observing street art and landmarks in Maboneng and Jeppestown en route to the market itself. 
When: 11:00 – 12:45
Where: Meet on the August House rooftop, 76 End Street, Doornfontein
Cost: R500 p.p., book your tickets here.

Artist Keke Nkadimeng will perform the piece Birth, Stones & Death, inspired by Czech-French author Milan Kundera's book The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
When: 14:30 – 15:00 
Where: 23 Voorhout Street, Troyeville
Cost: R250

Tranquillity and dis-ease hold hands in The Shivering Slumber, one work from Sifiso Mkhabela's solo show. Photo: Asisebenze Art Atelier.

See Sifiso Mkhabela's solo Concrete Cocoon which explores the theme of transformation as it relates to the city's history, politics, and culture. Plus, the studio's play area for kids is open all day.
When: 10:30 – 17:00
Where: 76 Joubert Street, Johannesburg
Cost: Free

See & We Go Gentle curated by Palesa Suthane, a group exhibition reflecting on faith, spiritual enlightenment, patience, and the power of finding joy in daily rituals.
When: 10:30 – 17:00
Where: 15 Hulbert Road, City Deep
Cost: Free

Contra.Joburg is an art fair unlike any other; a window into the heart of Joburg's creative economy that is novel, participatory, and all-round inspiring. Book your tickets for Sat, May 25 and Sun, May 26


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