The Market Theatre is an iconic theatre associated with South Africa's political history. It is regarded as a bastion of struggle theatre and was established over 32 ago to provide a home for theatre that reflected the expereiences of black South Africans. Today it continues to provide a space for new plays and also provides a home for the Market Theatre Laboratory that has a training school fro professional actors. Housed in a heritage site of the Old Indian Market, the theatre is within the Newtown Cultural precinct that has a host of museums, dance and music venues within a 1 km radius.
One of the new (since 2003) landmarks of Johannesburg, marking the divide between Braamfontein and the CBD itself, is the Nelson Mandela Bridge.
The 294 metres long bridge spans the Braamfontein Rail Yard and connects Bertha Street in Braamfontein and West Street in Newtown. It has a three-span unsymmetrical cable stays.
Newtown and its development is intended to be the new artistic centre of Johannesburg and includes the Market Theatre, the Dance Factory, the Dance Forum, the home of Moving Into Dance, Kippies Jazz Club, Bassline, MuseuMAfrika amongst other trendy and cultural places. The revitalisation of the area is aimed at cultural rejuvenation, attracting tourists and boosting Gauteng’s economy. Performing and visual artists, both black and white, are finally returning to the inner city, and many of them cross the Nelson Mandela Bridge on their way to and from Newtown.
Nelson Mandela says: "The bridge has a symbolic significance to bridge the gap between people by bringing them into a bustling precinct. I am now encouraged to call upon the international and business world to invest in such projects so as to help create jobs to better the lives of our people."
Two security guards are on duty on the bridge at any time and it is relatively safe if one is in pairs, to stop on the northern (Braamfontein) side of the bridge and to walk across it to take photographs of the skyline.
When the main produce market in Johannesburg was relocated from its downtown site, to an industrial suburb where it is better served with modern infrastructure the problem of the beautiful, but run down and neglected Edwardian building it had occupied was solved by a group of performing artists who raised funds to save the building which they planned to convert to a theatre. This was a major exercise and patrons who contributed generously are commemorated in various ways throughout the foyer. Outside the theatre are a number of concrete blocks into which was originally set brass plaques bearing the names of other (later) donors. I “own” one of these blocks and the brass plaque with the inscription of my name was still there last time I looked, despite the fact that most of these plaques have been prised out of their home for the intrinsic resale value of the brass.
Renovation work started with a lot of the work being done by the artists themselves. Most of the original architecture remains, as do a number of the original signs. The theatre opened in 1976 with Barney Simon, one of the artists who pioneered the project, as its artistic director, a position which he held until his death 1995. The Market Theatre has three venues and the upstairs theatre is now named in his honour.
During apartheid the theatre became a focal point for local artists and gained an international reputation as the "Theatre of the Struggle". In the 1980s it was one of the very few places that blacks and whites could mix on equal terms. Athol Fugard, Zakes Mda, Welcome Msomi, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Gibson Kente, Paul Slabolepszy, Mbongeni Ngema, Deon Opperman and James Ngcobo, John Kani and Winston Ntshona are just some of the famous artists associated with the theatre.
Today this theatre has as its slogan “Learn South African, visit the Market Theatre”. It is at the forefront of South African theatre and hosts a large proportion of the new South African productions and revivals of important South African classics. It is a major artistic hub and the original market building now also houses MuseumAfrika which serves not only as a depository of cultural heritage but also as a centre for conferences, workshops and “indabas” or consultations. There is a thriving flea market and the area serves the artistic community in training in the dance, music, theatre and photography. The area is well served with restaurants and I recommend the Gramadoelos, with its African and South African cuisine, to both local and foreign tourists.
This is a feature of contemporary South African theatrical and cultural life which should not be missed and as there are nearly always three productions on the go (although the theatre has an irritating habit of going dark between the runs) one should be able to get tickets for one or another show during the week. On Tuesdays most of the productions have half-price tickets.
Everybody knowns that Johannesburg is not the safest place on earth, but this counts especially for downtown Johannesburg. As a normal tourist, you’ll probably like to see the center of the town expecting that a big part of the city life is going on there. Not in Johannesburg – the city center is ruled by poverty and criminality with authorities only slowly ganing back control in some areas. Immigrants from neighbouring african countries come to this place, establishing crime, drugs and prostituation. Nothing for a tourist to see here… If you are looking for historical buildings, you won’t find any. The only places of interest here may be the trains and bus terminals as well as the new Nelson Mandela bridge. The rest is a place you will surely not like.
If you want to get an impression, take an organized tour or go there with a local. You’ll see what I am talking about, but you’ll see also one thing which is typical for post-Apartheid South Africa: Slow progress. In the center, you’ll find some spots where life is not looking that bad. The city of Johannesburg is doing a lot to make the city center a better place, not only by reducing crime, but also by refurbishing the buildings. It gives hope that in a couple of years, the center will be again a place safe for locals and tourists. I would like to recommend a tour with Annekie or Henry which offer a half-day tour through downtown Johannesburg and Soweto and will serve you as your private guide.
This building, the tallest in Africa, was the heart of the city commerce, until recent years when all the commercial offices and hotels, moved to Sandtown. From the top of it, one can see great views of the city. There´s also a restaurant and some souvenirs shops at the top.
Two years and R38-million in the making, the spectacular Nelson Mandela Bridge has emerged as a new landmark for Gauteng province, and holds out the promise of a rejuvenated Johannesburg inner city.
The 284 metre long bridge crosses over 42 operational railway lines in linking Braamfontein and the north of Johannesburg to Newtown in the heart of the city’s central business district.
Paris has its Eiffel Tower, New York its Statue of Liberty, Sydney its Harbour Bridge. On 20 July, Johannesburg opened the largest cable-stayed bridge in southern Africa. Who else to name it after but Nelson Mandela, the man who led South Africa across the apartheid divide?
I took a tour down here very informative it is not as bad as people say it was, but If you are tourist just do not come down here at night or by yourself (use common sense and should be okay) Even though all businesses, shopping and jobs moved out of downtown Johannesburg. The buildings and skyline are great to look at.
The highest point in Africa.
One of the big skyscrapers is open to public for a magnificent view over the city. It's called Carlon Center. It's a shopping center and you follow signs to the panorama. Buy a ticket (don't know how much, but it isn't very much) and go up the elevator to the 50th floor.
I found the ticket, 2 1/2 yrs after having been there. It's 7,50 ZAR and nowadays that's about € 0,75 !
Join a local tour where you'd be taken for a delightful tour of the city of Jo'burg. But DON'T travel alone! This is Jo'burg - a VERY dangerous city if you're walking along the streets ON YOUR OWN. Believe me, they can sniff you out and guess that you're just an innocent tourist. My dear sister was actually robbed of US$700 in cash right here in Sandton City, I think. Let me go check with her again. So, please be careful O.K.?
I dind´t walk through the downtown (i was highly recommended to don´t do it), but i saw some of the active life of the city from the bus.
i visited Johannesburg downtown in an organized tour, it´s a good way to see how the city was during the times of the City of Gold.