As usual, finding myself at a loss for New Year’s plans, I hit up everyone I knew in Africa to see what was happening around the continent. Some were going to Zanzibar, others to Kilifi in Kenya (possibly my plan for next year!) but when I found out Afropunk were bringing their latest installment to Johannesburg, South Africa, my mind was set. It’s one of my favourite cities and I am always seeking out new creative things to do in Joburg. As if the world wanted me to be there, my friend Jenny (a.k.a Discovering Legacies) called to say that she was also going to be working there- “But you have to come a week earlier for Rebirth!”
Rebirth Festival: An Afro Re-Awakening, is a fringe festival organised by the boutique hostel Once in Joburg.
It aims to encourage guests to experience the culture, tastes and sounds of African culture, through the eyes of local poets, musicians and creatives. When I travel, I always like to keep it local so it sounded like the perfect way to experience Jozi life, and I wasn’t wrong!
When I arrived at Once, I knew straight away that it was my kind of place. The friendly Thobs introduced herself and gave me a quick tour. The hostel is the perfect mix of social and chill spaces. Downstairs there are beanbags, a reading corner and a reasonably priced bar/restaurant called The Immigrant. Upstairs there is a spacious cooking and dining area, a balcony and a movie theatre full of mattresses for optimum chilling.
Last time I was in Joburg, I stayed in the awesome Maboneng district, but I think next time I would stay in Once again just for the atmosphere they create. I bought a week long pass for the full Rebirth Festival but most of the activities are available all year round.
As the festival is expected to change from year to year, I’ll give you the ones that made the top of my list of things to do in Johannesburg.
Traditional Zulu Poetry and Dinner
On the night I arrived, we were treated to a performance by a local poet and musician. The artist played drums and performed a spoken word piece that highlighted the real life struggles faced by South Africans today. While this was taking place, we indulged in a traditional South African meal, my favourite, Bunny Chow! Bunny Chow is nothing to do with bunnies (as I initially feared!), rather it is what the locals call hollowed out bread filled with curry. We ate this accompanied by maize, pap and vegetables.
We also had the option to try traditional South African tripe, but I am not an adventurous eater so gave that a skip. I highly recommend some traditional food and drinks when in Joburg!
Braam by Bike
Once in Joburg is situated in the neighbourhood of Braamfontein. Usually populated with students, we found it pretty empty when we were there. This made it terrible for nightlife but perfect for cycling. The tour took us from the 100 year old Kitchener’s pub to Wits University and everywhere in between.
The creativity in Braam is awe-inspiring. We visited a fashion startup by a group of ex highschool classmates and took in the street art along the way.
My favourite stop was to the rooftop bar, Randlords. The building is currently unoccupied apart from the bar on the 22nd floor. The views of Johannesburg are perfect.
Braam by Bike give this tour daily and you can book through Once in Joburg.
Check out my top rooftop spots in Dar es Salaam when you’re finished reading!
Traditional Beer Brewing in Soweto
When I backpacked South Africa on the Baz Bus, Soweto was the highlight of the trip. I love visiting places full of creativity, history and down to earth people and Soweto is all of those things. The beer brewing workshop deserves a whole post of its own (someday I’ll get to it!) but here are the highlights:
I spent the rest of Rebirth Festival listening to spellbinding music performances, chatting with fellow bloggers, creatives and designers and browsing the innovative designs at the Once in Joburg marketplace. This was the first year that Afropunk came to Joburg. Therefore it was the first year of Rebirth Festival too. Afropunk have committed for the next 5 years so I hope this creative fringe festival grows with it.
Before you go, read some more about travelling in South Africa.