Along Louis Botha Avenue between Orange Grove and Yeoville there is a half-kilometer stretch of road previously known as “the death bend”.
Louis Botha is one of Joburg’s main thoroughfares between north and south, connecting Alexandra Township and the city’s northeastern suburbs to downtown Joburg. The road is notoriously ruled by speeding minibus taxis. This particular stretch is a relatively steep downhill from south to north and has a few dangerous curves.
The Louis Botha corridor is in the middle of a major redevelopment. The death bend was recently straightened out somewhat, and there is now a wide pedestrian sidewalk and a very high wall along the northwestern side the road.
A few months ago, that wall was covered with a huge, vibrant graffiti mural illustrating the history of the Louis Botha corridor (previously the Old Pretoria Road). The graffiti project is called the S-bend mural and it’s the largest mural in Joburg, covering 3,000 square meters.
The S-bend mural — “S-bend” is meant to be less negative than “death bend”, while still warning drivers of potential danger — was commissioned by the City of Johannesburg Department of Transport, the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), and a JDA-supported art campaign #ArtMyJozi. Artists who participated in the project include Zesta, Page33, Mein163, Anser91, Ekse, Dreadr, Mars, Jestr, Plank, Vivian Kohler, Sandile Radebe, and Maja Maljevic. (You can find most of these artists on Instagram.)
There was a lot of local community input into the subject matter of the mural, which begins with the history of Louis Botha as a 19th-century Ndebele trade route and continues to the present day.
Walking the Louis Botha S-bend
Last Monday, a public holiday in South Africa, my friend Fiver and I parked on a side street off Louis Botha and walked the length of the S-bend mural. It was delightful. There’s so much to look at — the mural is like a mini art and history lesson. I also loved interacting with the pedestrians and cyclists passing by.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures.
Thanks to Page33 for providing important information and background for this post.
If you’d like to walk the S-bend, I recommend parking on Young Avenue (a quiet residential street) near the corner of Acorn Lane, which intersects with Louis Botha in the middle of the mural. I also recommend going on a Sunday — or even better, a holiday — when traffic is light and it will be easier to cross from one side of Louis Botha to the other.