Today shoppers flock to the Oriental Plaza for its extensive offering of wedding wear, both Western and traditional options, as well as other formal wear plus plenty of party and wedding decorations to make any occasion stand out. With fair prices on many popular shoe and clothing brands this is a great destination to take teenagers shopping. You can also shop for armfuls of glittery bracelets, hand-stitched Indian cotton quilts, bejewelled slippers, glamorous evening dresses and much more plus, not forgetting the best coconut samoosas in town at the legendary World of Samoosas and gold wedding jewellery at excellent reasonable prices.
Where the South Mall and car park 4 now stand used to be the site of Red Square, an open community square that during the 1940s and 1950s was a favoured meeting point for the anti-apartheid movement in the city. This space has been marked with a Blue Plaque, a testimony to the area's historical significance.
In particular Red Square is famous as the site of the launch of the Defiance Campaign in 1952 – a response to the apartheid government’s failure to repeal unjust laws, particularly those that restricted the movement and rights of anybody who was classified as 'non-white'. Inspired by Gandhi's peaceful resistance movements in India, the Defiance Campaign began with a mass protest led by the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. Groups of 'defiers' came together to protest non-violently, entering spaces that were zoned for 'European use-only' and offering themselves up for arrest for infrginging upon apartheid's petty rules of segregation.
This campaign paved the way for more non-violent protests and demonstrations throughout the 1950s such as The Congress of The People in Kliptown in 1955, The Women's March in 1956 to the Union Buildings in Pretoria and the Sharpeville demonstration of 1960, which ended in tragedy when the police opened fire on the unarmed peaceful protestors, killing 69 and injuring hundreds more. These key events were all part of bringing an end to Apartheid rule and ushering in democratic freedoms in South Africa.
In the 1970s the apartheid-era municipality brutally demolished Fordsburg's neighbouring suburb, Fietas, a vibrant community that was known particularly for its clothing and fabrics shops. The Oriental Plaza was built in the 1979s as an attempt to compensate Indian shop owners whose businesses had been destroyed in Fietas. For many years the centre was a white elephant and was avoided by many in protest against what had been taken away by the Nationalist Party government. That was until the community reclaimed the space. This history forms the background for Riaad Moosa's critically-acclaimed 2012 Muslim comedy-drama film set in Fordsburg and the Oriental Plaza, Material.
Nowadays the centre belong to the community and is a major neighbourhood landmark. Many traders have been here for decades, while newer stores have also established themselves in the plaza, catering to the often changing demographics of this very multi-cultural Joburg neighbourhood.