I recently went with my friends Manuela and Gail to Diagonal Street, a historic Joburg shopping street. Diagonal Street — known for its fabric, blanket, and muti (traditional medicine) shops — is so named because it runs on a diagonal for three blocks between Albertina Sisulu Road and Kerk Street. Manuela wanted to shop for fabric; Gail and I came along for an excuse to get out of the house.
I rarely buy fabric, mainly because I don’t sew, but I love taking photos in fabric shops. So when we walked down a narrow staircase into the MiniMark Wholesale Discount House (thank you Gail for guiding us there), I knew I’d hit the jackpot.
I don’t know why this store is called MiniMark, as there’s nothing “mini” about it. It’s a huge store with every kind of fabric, African or otherwise, as well as shoes, belts, shirts, scarves, blankets, ribbons — basically anything and everything made of cloth.
Manuela and Gail looked at fabric while I wandered around taking photos.
Fatima (who did not want to be photographed) told me all about the history of the shop. Fatima’s family is originally from Sophiatown. But they were forcibly removed in the late 1950s when the apartheid government razed Sophiatown to the ground to make way for Triomf, a whites-only suburb. The shop moved downtown at that point. It has been in its current location for 38 years.
There are many great places in Joburg to shop for (and photograph) fabric, but MiniMark is definitely in my top five. Go check it out — it’s less than ten minutes’ walk from the Newtown Junction mall — and take a walk up Diagonal Street while you’re there. I personally feel safe walking in and around Diagonal Street during the day. But it’s best not to go alone and to keep your valuables out of sight while walking.
The MiniMark Wholesale Discount House is at the corner or Albertina Sisulu Road and Diagonal Street. (It shows up as “33 Market Street” on Google Maps.) Find MiniMark on Instagram at @minimark_fabrics.
I can see why a photographer would like visiting a fabric shop, even if they don’t sew. Such color! Great photos!
Thanks. The only thing that would make this place better (photographically) is some natural light. But the fact that it’s hidden away in a basement under florescent lights is also part of the charm.
Great photos, you captured the store perfectly.
Thanks! And thanks for taking us there.
On a somewhat tangential note: those muti shops. Because they supply sangomas and the like, they are pretty much untouchable. You don’t want to go messing with the ancestors. However, they deal in parts of many endangered species, including pangolin, vulture, leopard, lion and crocodile – all very strong muti – among others. One of those dilemmas of the split personality of our developed/feudal land.
Yes, it’s complicated for sure. I definitely have mixed feelings about traditional medicine, but then again I also have very mixed feelings about the Western pharmaceutical industry.
HOW DO WE GET HOLD OF YOU
I was born a few blocks away 70 plus years ago…lived in the area for approx,25 years.
My mom was a dressmaker. Pictures remind me of all the shopping trips with her and sight/smell of bright colourful material hung up and in rolls. Thanks for another trip down memory lane !!!
That is so cool!