For a different pace to the malls of the Northern Suburbs, head to Fordsburg's historic Oriental Plaza. Boasting more than 350 stores the plaza today is a thriving bazaar with its fabric shops, spice shops, wide array of street fashion labels, great luggage selection, kid's toys, sari silks, haberdashery and budget-priced homewares.
When the apartheid-era municipality brutally demolished the vibrant nearby suburb of Fietas in the 1970s the Oriental Plaza was built in an attempt to compensate Indian shop owners whose businesses had been destroyed. For many years it was a white elephant, a 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.
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. This centre also has the reputation of its fair priced gold jewellery.
The Red Square
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 Johannesburg. This space has been marked with a Blue heritage Plaque, a testimony to the area's historical significance.
In particular Red Square is famous as being 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, entered spaces that were zoned for 'European use-only' and offered themselves up for arrest.
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.