Welcome to Week 38 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Pretoria suburb of Marabastad.
A suburb of Pretoria just west of the city center, Marabastad has always been a multicultural neighborhood populated mostly by Indian and black South Africans. The area experienced forced removals during the 1940s and 50s, when everyone was forced to move out and people of different (non-white) races were relocated to various townships outside the city.
Unlike Sophiatown and District Six, much of Marabastad was never demolished and the people who were forcibly removed continued to do business there. (There’s a decent Wikipedia entry about Marabastad, although the history section peters out after about 1950. Read more about Marabastad here.)
Marabastad was supposedly named for the Ndebele Chief Maraba, who headed a village of the same name in the 1880s. Even today, Marabastad is the place where Ndebele artisans (like the women I wrote about a few weeks ago) come to buy beads.
Which brings me to the reason for my visit: After my recent beading class at piece, Beauty and Eugenie invited Marie-Lais and me to tag along on one of their bead-shopping missions to Marabastad.
Marabastad is what South Africans would call “hectic”. It’s noisy and chaotic and haphazard. Marabastad includes a frenetic shopping area called the Asiatic Bazaar, similar to Joburg’s Oriental Plaza but far less orderly, where you can buy African fabric, pots and pans, cheap Chinese toys, fruits and vegetables, traditional medicine, and everything in between.
And of course there are beads.
Our first stop was a shop called Kalbro on 11th Street. Harish, the owner, says Kalbro has been open since his grandfather’s time — more than half a century ago.
In additional to piles and piles of colorful glass beads, imported from the Czech Republic, Harish sells African fabric, blankets, pots, walking sticks, and all the other items given as gifts (lobola) in traditional South African marriages.
Harish Kalan, third-generation owner of Kalbro. Note the Ndebele and Basotho blankets behind him.
Beauty and Eugenie bought some silk beading thread at Kalbro, then we walked through the Marabastad maze to another shop called Makkie, Shop D4 in the Asiatic Bazaar.
After some discussion with the manager, who wasn’t too keen for me to take photos at first, I finally received a green light.
From Makkie, our band of four women tramped all around Marabastad — up and down various streets, through the fruit and vegetable market, and a final stop for Beauty to buy mopane worms at an outdoor stall.
Mopane worms (in the buckets on the right), a type of caterpillar, are a southern African delicacy. They are bought dried, then eaten as is or boiled and topped with sauce. I can’t stomach them, mainly because of the caterpillar-y texture.
The Mariamman Temple
Back in the car, we drove a few blocks to Marabastad’s most famous landmark: The Mariamman Temple. The temple was built in 1905 and is stunningly beautiful and completely incongruous with its surroundings.
Beauty and I tried to get inside the temple but alas, we had no luck. This area is what South Africans would call “dodgy” and we couldn’t really hang around waiting for someone to let us in. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back another time and get better photos.
The Mariamman Temple is at 23 6th Street in Marabastad. If you want to explore Kalbro and other Marabastad shops, 11th Street is as good a place to park as any. Be sure to hold on to your valuables and be well aware of your surroundings while walking in Marabastad.