As previously reported, FADER and Sprite have joined forces to spotlight South Africa’s vibrant, emerging street culture — specifically the young talents who are helping to make it one of the most fascinating places for art on the planet. To help set the scene, we’re psyched to present a new micro-documentary about Braamfontein, a neighborhood in Johannesburg that has recently become a kind of social nucleus for the city’s creative youth. Because of its proximity to Wits, the nation’s third oldest university, Braamfontein has traditionally been a hotspot for young people to live, work and party. But when apartheid happened, most of the population split for safer suburbs and the area devolved into a bit of a slum. Now, a few decades later, it’s transforming again.
“There’s a lot of development happening quickly,” explains Andrew Berry, co-founder of the South African production company we-are-awesome. “In the last year or two it’s become a really solid place where everyone goes and hangs out.” Since new businesses can snag affordable spaces to work, Braam has attracted a diverse crop of young innovators — visual artists, designers, musicians, entrepreneurs — who are actively abstaining from more conventional career paths. Today, its main drags are lined with coffee shops, cozy bars, furniture stores, bike shops, art galleries, boutique hotels and other forward-thinking independent businesses. A weekly market showcases local food and specialty goods, regularly attracting visitors from the decidedly more affluent parts of Jo'burg.
We’ve seen this before — an urban, somewhat dodgy area is injected with life and artistic energy (see: Hackney Wick in London or Bushwick in New York). But the evolution of Braam reflects a bigger cultural shift, particularly in the way young, expressive South Africans relate to one another. “In terms of the creative landscape of Jo'burg it plays a really important role,” says Berry. “It brings together all these artists that can then collaborate on projects and have a sort of connectivity to like-minded people.” Explore the streets of Braam by watching the full mini-doc above, beautifully shot by Cape Town’s Adriaan Louw, and keep checking TheFADER.com/Sprite for more photos, video, and interviews from Obey You Collective: South Africa. This week, we’ll delve into the strange, surreal, neon-colored world of Durban-based street artist pastelheart.