I recently connected with Fabian and Lavinia Otto during a Johannesburg Heritage Foundation tour of Coronationville and Bosmont. Fabian and Lavinia were our guides for the Coronationville/Bosmont tour but they actually live in Noordgesig, a historically coloured township on the northeastern edge of Soweto.

Lavinia and Fabian Otto in Noorgesig
Lavinia and Fabian in front of the community center in Noordgesig. More on the artwork behind them in a moment. (Side note: Please do not ask me how to correctly pronounce “Noordgesig”, which means “north-facing” in Afrikaans. I will fail miserably.)

Fabian and Lavinia, who are leaders in the Noordgesig community, invited me to come check out an event at Noordgesig’s new(ish) public library earlier this week. I eagerly accepted. I went to Noordgesig once before in 2017 on a tour sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency — read more about that tour in the second half of this blog post — but had been wanting to go back for a while to check out the new public art that has sprouted up there. I had also never seen the library, which was completed during covid.

I don’t want to say too much about Noordgesig in this post; I have a feeling I’ll be going back soon to work on a longer series. But here are a few pictures that I took on Monday.

Noordgesig Library and Surrounds

My first stop was the library.

The Noordgesig Library
The new library is enormous.
View north from the library
True to its name, Noordgesig’s library faces north. This balcony looks out over New Canada Road, one of the main arteries connecting Soweto to the rest of Joburg.
Noordgesig Library children's section
The library’s lovely children’s section.
Art class at the library
Fabian and Lavinia, a talented artist and sign writer, were leading a youth art class at the library on the day I visited. (Monday was a school holiday.) The class was delightful and, as you can see, very well attended.
Watching kids finger-paint is a relaxing and enjoyable activity. The kids also used recycled toilet paper rolls to paint flowers.
Art class competition winners
Flower-painting contest winners.

Lavinia and Fabian took me on a quick stroll around the neighborhood after the art class. I got to admire a few of the local street art projects, which Lavinia directed as part of a partnership with Art My Jozi.

Noordgesig Community Centre
The other side of the community center features another Noordgesig scene.
Mural for boxer Jake Tuli
A beautiful mural honoring South African boxer Jake Tuli, who lived much of his life in the house across from Lavinia and Fabian’s current house.
Mural of Jake Tuli
This mural also features Jake Tuli.
A beautifully painted butchery and food shop. There’s a story about the lady painted on the side of the building — a local Noordgesig woman who was renowned for her gardening prowess. I’ll get the full story for next time.

That’s all on Noordgesig for now. Thanks to Fabian and Lavinia for the invite! I’ll be back soon.


  1. dizzylexa

    Lavinia and Fabian are such a great couple and so invested in their community. The garden lady is Mama Glover if I’m not mistaken, there is an impressive painting of her on a church not too far from the community centre. Also an area that does not get the recognition it so rightfully deserves.

    • 2summers

      Yes, they are the nicest people! I will definitely go back and explore all the street art — Noordgesig is only about 15 minutes away from me.

  2. Tumtum

    My heart skipped a beat at the sight of a newly constructed library <3 They are sorely needed and very often neglected and underfunded by the state. I'm hoping this is a sign that the Joburg municipality will be investing in upgrading the existing libraries.

    May this library serve the community of Noordgesig and continue to delight its children.

    • 2summers

      Yes, let’s hope!

  3. Fiver Löcker

    Oh you got to go there! Say hi to Fabian and Lavinia when you see them next. I can’t wait to get back and hang out with them. So they have their social media up and running yet?

    • 2summers

      They also asked about you!

  4. Marco Brown

    It is so nice to see the area so much improved. It use to be one of the most neglected and impoverished places under the old regime. My parents are from Noordgesig and I have fond memories of the township visiting family there but have not been to visit the area for more than 15 years (or maybe longer). Would love to go soon and see it in person. Thanks for these types of blogs, we love it.

    • 2summers

      You’re welcome! I hope you get to go back soon.


Leave a Reply