Art in Downtown Joburg: Open Studios 2023

by | Jun 1, 2023 | Uncategorized | 11 comments

I’ve written many, many blog posts about the vibrant art scene in Joburg, especially downtown Joburg, over the years. But it bears repeating, especially now: Joburg’s artists are this city’s beating heart and its greatest asset. Art is keeping downtown Joburg alive. I was reminded of this last weekend when I attended Joburg’s Open Studios.

Art at Asisebenze
Work by Lebohang Motaung at Asisebenze Art Atelier, one of the venues participating in this year’s Open Studios.

Open Studios is an annual event in which a bunch of artist studios around the Joburg inner city are opened to the public, with shuttle service connecting the different buildings so visitors can travel between them. This might sound like a simple concept but it’s a huge deal, as many of these studios are deep in the Joburg CBD (central business district) and not super easy to drive to.

Looking through the window at Asisebenze
Looking through an artist studio window at a busy street in the Joburg CBD.

The Open Studios weekend is a great opportunity to meet emerging artists in the spaces where they work — and also live, in many cases — and experience the environment that inspires their art.

A lot of the featured studios are places I know well — Transwerke, August House, Lilian Road, and Ellis House, among others — but I was excited to check out a couple of studios I hadn’t been to before. Here’s where I went.

Asisebenze Art Atelier

I started my Sunday with an Uber ride to Ellis House, where I met my friend Gail. Gail and I then caught the shuttle to Asisebenze.

Looking out from Asisebenze
Looking out over downtown Joburg (the block looks relatively quiet but trust me, these streets are chaotic) from Asisebenze at 28 Plein Street.
Art in the corridor at Asisebenze Art Atelier
Colorful hallway featuring a painting by Justice Mathonzi.

Asisebenze is a relatively new studio/gallery space, opened within the last two years. It’s in a beautiful old building, recently restored, in the very center of the Joburg CBD. There are dozens of studios inside, many with big windows and great views of the city. We spent most of the day there and I took tons of photos.

View through the window of Sifiso Mkhabela's studio
View through the window of an Asisebenze studio.
View from balcony at Asisebenze
An Asisebenze balcony.
View through the window in Zitha Seza's studio
Another window view in the studio of Zitha Seza.
Cat at Asisebenze
There was a cat!
Artist Mummy Khumalo surrounded by her wild, colorful work.
Sifiso Mkhabela's studio
Sifiso Mkhabela‘s studio was my favorite — it has amazing light.
Sifiso Mkhabela
Work by
Work by Zamani Xaba.
Paintings by
I love these paintings by Fumani Maluleke, done on traditional grass mats.

From Asisebenze we caught the shuttle to the Living Artists’ Emporium on the east side of the city.

The Living Artists Emporium

I’ve been meaning to visit the Living Artists Emporium, or LAE, for years, as its located inside a unique venue: the Ellis Park Tennis Club.

View of Ellis Park Tennis Club from Living Artists Emporium
View of the outer tennis courts from the rooftop of the Living Artists Emporium.
Inside LAE
Inside LAE is a long corridor filled with art.
Center court at Ellis Park tennis club
View of Centre Court.
Work by Splash Motong
Splash Motong is a former fashion designer who is transitioning into art. The collages pictured here are made with hundreds of pieces of African fabric. I love them, but I also can’t stop thinking about that Joburg skyline piece on the bottom left.
Mmutla Mashishi had a beautiful exhibition on the LAE rooftop. He creates his work my melting massive amounts of PVC piping in big metal drums and then sculpting the melted plastic into these figures. (Eek! He says he wears a gas mask.) I wish I had a garden for one of Mmutla’s sclptures.

Ellis House

Ellis House, also near Ellis Park, is one of the more well-established artist studio buildings in downtown Joburg. Gail and I saved Ellis House for last and then spent most of our time there having lunch at Cleo’s, the Ellis House coffee shop/café (which I definitely recommend — especially the coffee). But we did squeeze in a few quality Ellis House visits before the Open Studios ended.

I loved talking to Nadine Mathenjwa, who is 23 and creating bad-ass art about coming of age in this crazy city.
Thonton Kabeya in his studio at Ellis House
I was super excited to meet Thonton Kabeya, whose work I photographed at Everard Read with Thabo the Tourist. The huge work behind him will be part of his upcoming show at Wits Art Museum.
Phumzile Buthelezi was the last artist we visited, and the only artist from whom I purchased work. I absolutely loved her whimsical, collage-like neckpieces, which were inspired by car gaskets, and I had to buy one.
Heather with necklace by Phumzile Buthelezi
This necklace made my day complete.

Thanks, Open Studios, for making me feel positive and optimistic about downtown Joburg again. I’m already looking forward to next year.


  1. Ms. Nancy Anne McDaniel

    OMG I WANT ONE OF THOSE NECKLACES!!!! Any idea how I could get one (and how much they cost)?

    • 2summers

      Hi Nancy, I’m sure you could arrange something with Phumzile! I would send her a message on Instagram: @phumziwami 🙂

      • Ms. Nancy Anne McDaniel

        Thank you. I will try that

  2. dizzylexa

    You’ve captured the day so well, it was awesome to do it with you. Great photos.

    • 2summers

      Thanks for being a great companion, as always 🙂

  3. Barend van der Merwe

    I love it! Thanks for sharing these wonderful photographs.

  4. Dieter Aab

    That beautiful necklace certainly suits you.

  5. Peggy Laws

    I loved the entire weekend and was certainly “arted out” by late Sunday. There is just soooo much talent here and so many wonderful artists.

    • 2summers

      Yeah I barely scratched the surface and it was still so much!



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