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.

Fabric for sale at MiniMark Fabrics on Diagonal Street
Fabric heaven at the MiniMark Wholesale Discount House.

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.

On Minimark staircase
Walking down the staircase into the shop.
Inside MiniMark
Looking down on about half of the massive shop. The lady with her back to me (in the purple headscarf) is Fatima Akhalwaya, the owner’s sister.

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.

Shweshwe section of MiniMark
The shweshwe section of the shop. Shweshwe is South Africa’s most popular traditional fabric, manufactured in the Eastern Cape. The shweshwe at MiniMark is extremely well priced at less than R60 per meter.
Ladies selling fabirc
Unfortunately I didn’t get these ladies’ names.
Wax print fabric
Colorful wax print.
Inside MiniMark
The traditional fabrics hanging from the ceiling are worn by sangomas (traditional healers) and for other ceremonial purposes. I saw at least one novice sangoma shopping while we were there.

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.

Minimark selfie
MiniMark mirror selfie.

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.

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