MiniMark Wholesale Discount House: Fabric Heaven on Diagonal Street

by | Feb 18, 2021 | Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Markets/Shopping | 9 comments

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.


  1. AutumnAshbough

    I can see why a photographer would like visiting a fabric shop, even if they don’t sew. Such color! Great photos!

    • 2summers

      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.

  2. dizzylexa

    Great photos, you captured the store perfectly.

    • 2summers

      Thanks! And thanks for taking us there.

  3. David Bristow

    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.

    • 2summers

      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.



  5. Ex-Joburger Hibernating in Canada

    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 !!!


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