Art in Fordsburg at Lilian Road Studios

by | Nov 25, 2022 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Markets/Shopping | 8 comments

I’ve visited Lilian Road Studios, a collection of artists’ studios in a historic, dilapidated building in Fordsburg, many times. Several great Joburg artists have had studios at Lilian Road, including Hannelie Coetzee and Hermann Niebuhr. Now there is a group of artists working there, several of whom are my friends, and I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about it before. There are so many things I love about these studios.

The entrance sign for Lilian Road Studios.

Things I Love About Lilian Road Studios

First: Lilian Road is in Fordsburg, one of Joburg’s most interesting neighborhoods — home to the Oriental Plaza and Syrian Rose, among countless other gems. The iconic Lilian Road building was built in 1913.

Lilian Road Studios in Fordsburg
Lilian Road Studios is at the corner of Lilian Road and Albertina Sisulu Road in Fordsburg.

Second: The studios feel like a secret and I love feeling like I’m in on a secret. There is a Pakistani restaurant on the ground floor of the Lilian Road building. On most days, when the main studio door is locked, you have to walk through the restaurant and its kitchen to get to the staircase up to the studios.

Hannelie Coetzee piece at the back of Lilian Road Studios
The back of the building also has a secret: This beautiful mosaic by Hannelie Coetzee portraying her great-grandmother, who migrated to Fordsburg more than 100 years ago after the Anglo-Boer War.
View from Lilian Road Studios
Looking toward downtown Joburg from the Lilian Road balcony. The star-shaped sculpture is by Gordon Froud, who has a studio in the building.
Lilian Road balcony
This balcony is a great place to watch the world go by.

Third, the building is always surrounded by pigeons. Pigeons are like hadedas: Most people in Joburg either love them or hate them, and I happen to love them. Many Muslims consider caring for their neighborhood’s pigeons to be a moral responsibility, hence the pigeons on this block are happy and well fed. There is always a flock of them roosting on the Lilian Road roof.

Fiver and pigeons
Fiver helped me orchestrate a pigeon photoshoot next to the studios.
Pigeon and Gordon Froud sculpture
A perfect pigeon photobomb on the Lilian Road balcony.

Fourth: The Lilian Road studios are full of quirky artists, many of whom I am very fond of, and their art. I visited a few days ago to take pictures of them before the big Open Studio event they’re hosting on December 10th and 11th.

Lilian Road Open Studio announcement

Here are the Lilian Road artists I met this week:

Alastair Findlay

Alastair Findlay in his Lilian Road studio. Alastair is a cartoonist turned fine artist, currently making all kinds of Joburg-inspired art. He’s currently working on a series of sculptures inspired by Fordsburg.
Sculpture by Alastair Findlay
Cardboard Fordsburg man and cat.

Ada-Ruth Kellow

Painter Ada-Ruth Kellow in her studio. On the day I visited, Ada-Ruth was getting ready for a big exhibition as part of her honors thesis from Wits University.
Ada-Ruth self-portraits
Funky self-portraits by Ada-Ruth.

Fiver Löcker

Fiver at Lilian Road
Fiver Löcker, one of my dearest friends who also designed the header of this blog, has a studio at Lilian Road too. Fiver is a print-maker and currently working on a series that centers around the early history of the slave trade.
Fiver sketchbook
An interesting page in Fiver’s sketchbook.

Kelebogile Masilo

Kelebogile Masilo at Lilian Road
Fiver’s studio is a collective of sorts, with several other artists using the studio to make prints and show their work. This is Kelebogile Masilo with some of her recent prints.
Kelebogile with Fiver’s printing press. Read more about print-making in this post.

Allison Klein

Allison Klein at Lilian Road
Print-maker Allison Klein made an appearance with a couple of her works.

I highly recommend checking out the Lilian Road Open Studio to meet these artists (and several others who I didn’t manage to catch when I was there) and see their work. I went to the previous Open Studio in June and it was fantastic, with tons of beautiful art for sale at a range of affordable price points. The Open Studio is also a great excuse to visit Fordsburg and have lunch at Syrian Rose, the Oriental Plaza, or one of countless other delicious (and cheap) South Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants in the area.

Lilian road artists
Lilian Road artists and their work.

Keep an eye on the artists’ Instagram feeds (all linked in the captions above) and @LilianRoadStudios for updates about the Open Studio.


  1. AutumnAshbough

    Had no idea there were so many print makers. But maybe there are print makers here I just don’t know about.

    • 2summers

      I know, and there are so many KINDS of fine art printing! I never knew anything about it either until Fiver became a print-maker.

    • Fiver Löcker

      We are legion. Come join us!

  2. dizzylexa

    Love that building, love those studios and artists, love those pigeons, love that area and can’t wait for the open studios.

    • 2summers

      Yay! Sadly I will miss this one – I’ll be in the US ????

  3. Mel

    These dilapidated buildings in Fordsburg, including the ones in your article, as well as the area in general date back to the earliest days of Johannesburg’s history and a lot of very interesting events occurred in the area. These include events relating to the Anglo-Boer War, the 1922 mining strike and the dynamite explosion in 1897 which killed hundreds. Some of the earliest businesses and hotels still stand there, although their names have been changed and there has been some minor restoration carried out. Some of them date back to the late 1800s. The Orient Hotel was originally called the Sacks Hotel as was built in the late 1890s.

    • 2summers

      Yes, I know! I’ve also read the Johannesburg 1912 article – it’s super interesting.

  4. Jane

    Love the discarded mattress on the iron roof! Sums up Joburg so well.



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