Newtown close to Johannesburg’s city centre has a rich history. The latter being the city of gold, Newtown on the other hand always was a place of cultural diversity which is still very much the trend today. This is maybe a strange thing to say but you get those places in the world where people go to specifically to experience others. This is a place where different cultures are embrace not just tolerated.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Newtown Precinct was known as “the Brickfields”. This area was rich in clay, and brick making became the most popular form of generating income. By 1896, about 7,000 people of all races lived in the area, later named Burghersdorp. Being close to Johannesburg’s city centre and the railway line, many businessman and immigrants coming from overseas bought stands in Burghersdorp. Soon, trading companies, banks, brick companies, a brewery, and fisheries moved into the area.
Shortly after South Africa became a democracy, the entire city fell into urban decay. Many businesses packed up and relocated to Sandton, which today is known as Sandton City. A few years ago the authorities started and urban renewal program and Newtown being part of this initiative is slowly becoming safe again for shoppers and culture seekers. Urban art and graffiti, such as the one in the photo, is evident in small pockets everywhere. Few tourists brave the city by foot but for us it is a place where you have to step down onto the pavement and experience the rhythmic beat of Africa.