Five artworks you can enjoy for free in and around Johannesburg

Enjoying art doesn’t have to be costly.
Enjoying art doesn’t have to be costly.
Image: Kierran Allen

What counts as public art? The very question is a source of debate. The first criterion is surely on the tin: it must be in a public space. But the second, the art part, is perhaps an extension of that dilemma: But is it art? While some argue that public art must have been created in consultation with the public, broadly speaking, art in public spaces falls into one of three categories: works commissioned by cities, by private institutions, and those that have been organically developed by independent artists working in public spaces. Counting all of these, the number of public artworks across the country is staggering.

Here is a selection of some of our finest. 

Soweto Tower, Karabo Poppy Moletsane

SEE IT: Cnr Sheffield Road and Chris Hani, Orlando East, Soweto

The “it-girl” illustrator, graphic designer and street artist has done works for several big-name brands, including Nike and Google. Last year, she brought her signature style in a black-and-gold facelift of Soweto’s most famous landmark in collaboration with the homebrewed Soweto Gold Superior Golden Lager. The result is a joyful representation of the city’s day-today life, and a salute to its vibrancy.

Image: Veli Nhlapho

Mural artists from left, ChowMein, Zesta, Page33, Dreda, Yoko, Mr Ekse, Tyler B Murphy

SEE IT: Corner Juta and Eendracht streets, Braamfontein.

Several artists painted a strip of this wall for last year’s City of Gold Festival. The aim of the festival is to establish Joburg as a destination for graffiti and street artists from around the world and to boost the street art community. 

Image: Unity Murals

Fountain outside the Minerals Council of South Africa, Unknown

SEE IT: 5 Hollard Street, Marshalltown

The fountain in front of the former Chamber of Mines tells the tale of the City of Gold. The centrepiece represents the largest gold nugget ever found in SA in 1874 in Pilgrims Rest, weighing 9kg. The fountain’s basin represents the Witwatersrand Basin, home to the world’s largest known gold reserves.

Image: Brian McKecknie

The Long March to Freedom, Various artists

SEE IT: Sterkfontein, Cradle of Humankind

So far, 100 life-sized bronze statues have been completed, with another 300 to come. Each of the statues represents a person who played a significant role in SA’s liberation, from historical chieftains to modern-day activists. The procession traces figures from the 1700s to the dawn of democracy

Image: Justin Dupiesanie

Fire Walker, William Kentridge and Gerhard Marxon

SEE IT: Corner Sauer and Simmonds streets, off the Queen Elizabeth bridge

Johannesburg ’s most high-profile piece of public art was commissioned by the city from one of the country’s most celebrated artists in 2009, in preparation for the World Cup 2010. The 11m sculpture is made of steel plates that only materialise into a clear image – a vendor walking with a burning brazier on her head –when viewed from a particular vantage point. It is a tribute to the everyday life of the city, and its resilience and entrepreneurial spirit.