Three new Joburg spaces to visit: Bridge Books, Livy's, 223 Jan Smuts

12 Dec 2023

The face of Joburg is ever-changing. The city has its tried and true institutions to keep us grounded, but on the whole, it can never be fully known – and that makes it endlessly interesting. We have a beloved indie bookstore on the move, an all-day play space and a must-see art destination in our round-up of what's new in Joburg and worth your while. Linden, Dunkeld and Rosebank, we're looking at you.


“We haven’t sold a single cookbook in seven years, and I don’t know why,” Bridge Books founder Griffin Shea says wryly. But that’s not why he and his team have hauled over thousands of books from their space in Commissioner Street in the Joburg City Centre to a charming retail complex in Linden. Promoting African literature has always been where indie bookstore Bridge Books has shone, and that’s not about to change.
Welcome to Bridge Books' friendly new Linden space. Photo: Bridge Books.
Welcome to Bridge Books' friendly new Linden space. Photo: Bridge Books.

Nor is Bridge Books vacating the City Centre entirely. The African Book Trust will remain at the Pop-Up Arcade at 97 Commissioner Street where Griffin’s non-profit activities have their administrative base. Of course, books are still sold there, albeit in reduced measure, plus it’s the meeting point where Bridge Books’ underground booksellers and other walking tours will continue to kick off. As for their primary retail face, Commissioner Street’s loss is Linden’s gain. Along Linden’s lovely 4th Avenue, you’ll be pleased to see Bridge Books’ brand-new sign outside the same centre that hosts vinyl store Recordmad, film development studio The RGB Pixellab and recent Melville transplants Junkie Charity Store and Fundi Leather.

Brian Lara's beach-bar-themed eatery is indeed just across the road from Bridge Books’ new home, but it was going to take more than piña coladas to get Shea to relocate his beloved bookstore. The landscape of Commissioner Street changed after Covid-19. Many of the bank and government workers who began working remotely out of necessity during the pandemic haven’t returned to their offices in the City Centre. So too the suspension of the Metrorail (with its 1.2 million daily commuters) equalled a not-insignificant dip in foot traffic to Bridge Books. Add to these quieter streets the difficulties of running a non-profit and a bookstore under the same roof and you have a recipe for change. This new era for Bridge Books fondly recalls its beginnings in 2016; the Linden store being roughly the same size as their original shop.
Excellent titles are on offer at Bridge Books. Photo: Bridge Books.
Excellent titles are on offer at Bridge Books. Photo: Bridge Books.

At Bridge Books in Linden, Tash France is your guide to the wonderful world of new and previously owned titles in stock. And if Shea happens to be around during your visit, you won't miss him – pick his brain about what to read next. Bridge Books is in good company in this characterful suburb. The Linden library’s not far off, and two second-hand book dealers are along the same stretch of road. Visit the brick-and-mortar Books Galore and the curbside pop-up shop outside the haberdashery Arthur Bales.

American-born Shea worked as a journalist before he moved to Joburg and made it his home. Those of us born and raised here tend to view the problems of our city as uniquely ours. Shea’s perspective is refreshing – recognising that all cities have their challenges, and then some – and so is his commitment to making a tangible difference. Through his involvement with the Joburg Literary District, he’s currently working towards raising 1,000 children’s books for two street libraries in Soweto and Alexandra and spearheading a campaign to reopen the main branch of the Johannesburg City Library, which has been closed since May 2021. There are also plans to adopt the Library Gardens from City Parks as caretakers and custodians. For the work that Shea does, the best outcome is to see our existing city spaces operating well.

Bridge Books hosts book launches, poetry nights and story sessions. These events won’t stop but they are changing shape. The best place to stay in the loop about the whens and wheres is by following @bridgebooks on Instagram or joining their mailing list. There’s far more that could be said about an institution as well-loved as Bridge Books. If you know, you know, and if you don’t yet, you get to have the supreme joy of finding out. Show Bridge Books some love at their new Linden space. There’s plenty of time left to get your festive gift shopping sorted, too.

59 4th Avenue, Linden.


Situated near kids' play space Joy Jozi, and facing the Oxford Parks complex on Eastwood Road on the Rosebank side of Dunkeld, Livy's is the sister property of Joy Jozi and an adult equivalent. It's a play-all-day space with a sports club featuring Africa Padel courts, as well as an upmarket bistro and bar that spills outdoors. The owners are well known for creating play spaces, whether for adults who enjoy racy entertainment – their club Babylon in Illovo is a famed nightspot – or for kids. 
The plush, art-filled interior of Livy's. Photo: Livy's.

The restaurant is named after Livy, the daughter of the two owners, and is a French twist on the name Olivia. The venue is a beautifully restored house and the décor is French-inspired. It's a delightful space, utterly tasteful and welcoming. It's designed for an older crowd; think of 40 as being the new 30. On weekends, it has plans to be a party spot with DJ sets and a state-of-the-art sound system. If you are not a fan of noise, this is not your place. 

Co-owner Brad Cilliers says they saw a gap in the market "for the over-40 crowd who
still want to dress up and hit the town somewhere with a fabulous atmosphere, just not at 11 pm [when clubs open]".
Not your average prego roll. Photo: Livy's.

In the kitchen is Chef Tyron Gentry, who comes with quite a pedigree, having worked at JAN in Nice, in the south of France, and under renowned Chef Luke Dale Roberts. The menu has a wide range of options from small plates to fancy dishes. We loved the prego roll and the fillet steak sandwich, both served with perfectly crisp skinny fries. Pricey options when compared to the average – but definitely not average. These are excellent. Read our full review of Livy's here

49 Eastwood Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg


Blink and you’ll miss 223 Jan Smuts – an inconspicuous property along the busy thoroughfare that was an office park in its past life. Fresh renovations have transformed it into a showstopper base for Berman Contemporary on home soil and a must-see along Rosebank’s art mile. Candice Berman Gallery, The Creatory and Framing@223 are in the building too, as well as some seriously stand-out local design. There are artist blankets from Something Good Studio, beautiful knitwear by Romaria, colourful hand-woven baskets and idiosyncratic ceramics. It’s also the largest showroom for modular Swiss furniture brand USM in Africa.
223 Jan Smuts is the newest destination along Rosebank's art mile. Photo: 223 Jan Smuts.

It’s a feast. It’s also deliberate: a different kind of art environment for sparking collaboration and fostering innovation amongst artists and makers, for the benefit of all. There’s nothing quite like 223 Jan Smuts on the Joburg art map. Candice Berman founded her commercial gallery 10 years ago and has forged her path in the art world steadily since. Remarkably, such a young gallerist is behind a space like 223 Jan Smuts – a testament to Berman's shrewd determination. She describes the space as “an entity that revolves itself around collaborations” and its location along Jan Smuts Avenue draws meaning from the road’s namesake. The former South African Prime Minister Jan Christian Smuts coined the word “holism”, referencing Aristotle's philosophy that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Art, design, music and food are all part of the plan for 223 Jan Smuts as a dual gallery and events space.

When we visited there was a giant bronze sculpture of an octopus in the entrance foyer, an appropriate mascot flanked on either side by local designer wares and a framing studio. Further in, you’ll find Candice Berman Gallery’s second showroom after its flagship in Bryanston. This is a revolving showcase of the unique, intuitive and often self-taught African artists the gallery associates with. The setting is bright and welcoming and you can have a cup of coffee, made exactly to your liking, while you look around.
Berman Contemporary's summer showcase The 2020s: New Forms of Abstraction. Photo: 223 Jan Smuts.

Follow the red-railed stairs to Berman Contemporary – Candice’s second gallery, launched in 2016 – which occupies almost the entire top floor of the building. Berman Contemporary is a champion for voices who are under-represented locally, with 10 female South African artists currently on its books. Berman signs artists for a minimum of three to five years to be able to chart the benefits of these partnerships over time. For the artists, Berman Contemporary is a ticket to the international art stage – in the past few months they’ve taken work to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London and ART COLOGNE in Germany. Berman Contemporary’s represented artists include Chrisél Attewell who works in clay, oil paint, glass and stone, new-to-the-gallery ceramicist Mellaney Roberts, engineer and fine artist Natalie de Morney, the dynamic Cow Mash (who has a limited-edition blanket with Something Good Studio) and photographer Hazel Mphande.

The brilliant Els van Mourik curates the annual summer showcase of Berman Contemporary, her finger firmly on the pulse. The 2020s: New Forms of Abstraction features work by South African abstract artists pushing the genre forward and is showing until Feb 25, 2024. Also upstairs, The Creatory is an in-house residency, arts lab and project space that hosts artists for two to three months at a time. For now, Odette Graskie is there, working towards an exhibition at the Cape Town Art Fair. This space is a window into an artist’s process and an invitation to the public to engage. Being in flux as it is, it contrasts beautifully with the very polished exhibition space and completed works that surround it. 
Female South African artists shine with Berman Contemporary. Photo: 223 Jan Smuts.

With many leaving Joburg in search of supposedly greener pastures, it’s heartening to meet people like Berman who are choosing to deepen their roots in the city instead. If the arrival of 223 Jan Smuts can shift this tide, long may it continue.

223 Jan Smuts Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg


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