A Special Tour in Bulte (Noordgesig): Sign Up Now

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Soweto, Tours, Townships/Informal Settlements | 4 comments

Regular readers will know that I’ve written a couple of posts about Noordgesig — affectionately called Bulte, which means “Hills” in Afrikaans — lately (see here and here). Last year I befriended Lavinia and Fabian Otto, who live in Noordgesig, and they’ve been slowly introducing me to Bulte’s unique history and culture.

Lavinia and Fabian Otto in Noorgesig
Lavinia and Fabian in front of Noordgesig’s brightly painted Community Centre.
Noordgesig mine dumps from New Canada Road
Bulte’s famous mine dumps (which gave the township its nickname) looming along New Canada Road.

Fabian and Lavinia are a true power couple and classic South African jacks-of-all-trades; they are seasoned community activists, artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs. On top of all that, the Ottos are registered South African tour guides, and I’m pleased to announce they will be holding a special arts and culture tour in Noordgesig on 16 March.

Mama Glover mural in Noordgesig
Elizabeth Glover (a.k.a. “Mama Glover”) was famous for her gardening skills and for founding one of Soweto’s first feeding schemes. She is memorialized in several murals around Noordgesig.
Noordgesig mural
Another one of my favorite Bulte murals.

About Bulte

Although it’s technically part of Soweto, sitting very close to Orlando on Soweto’s eastern edge, Noordgesig has a unique cultural heritage that makes it feel quite different from the rest of Soweto’s townships. And despite being a busy neighborhood in the middle of a big city, Bulte has a small, intimate feel that’s hard to explain if you haven’t been there.

Tuk tuk in Bulte
Tuk Tuks seem to be much more widely used in Bulte than anywhere else I’ve been in Joburg.
Lady selling chicken feet in Bulte
Chicken feet on the grill at a popular food stand.
Boys in Bulte
Bulte boys.

Another special thing about Noordgesig is its spectacular collection of public art. The township is dotted with colorful sculptures and murals, many of which were created during the 2017 #ArtMyJozi campaign. Lavinia, an accomplished street artist and sign painter, was intimately involved in the design and creation of many of Bulte’s public art pieces.

Entrance to the Noordgesig Community Pool
Entrance to the Community Pool.
Noordgesig community centre
A wider view of the Noordgesig Community Centre.
Fabian describes the historical imagery on one of Bulte's biggest murals
Fabian describes the historical imagery on one of Bulte’s biggest murals.

Some of Bulte’s street murals are slowly beginning to fade away, as street art often does, which makes this tour even more important. Now is the time to experience these historic artworks before they disappear or transform into something new.

These frozen, popsicle-like snacks, called choepas, are another one of my favorite things in Bulte. Nothing tastes better on a hot summer day. You’ll have an opportunity to try one on the tour.

Noordgesig is really easy to get to: It’s just off New Canada Road, the historical gateway to Soweto. The tour will start outside Fabian and Lavinia’s house, right across the street from the former home of legendary South African boxer Jake Ntuli.

This tour is limited to just 20 guests and I suspect it will fill up fast, so I suggest you sign up now on Quicket. I hope to see you there!


  1. Josie Adler

    I very much enjoy following your footsteps, Heather, in the country and the city of my birth, Johannesburg. Reading about people living in Noordgesig now, it concerns me that the historic memory of this place does not feature. Perhaps you will enquire what the tour guides know and share about about Noordgesig people “from before”, like the indomitable “Ma Vee” – Vesta Smith and her family, Noordgesig community leaders and organisers and lifelong activists over many decades. Too often in eGoli much of the lives of most people blows away in the dust of the mines. Young people, going to vote and make the now-SA, can be inspired and strengthened by handed-on recollection to stand on those strong community shoulders and the foundations they laid. https://www.sahistory.org.za/people/vesta-smith

    • 2summers

      Hi Josie, oh yes, Ma Vee and many other figures will feature in the tour!

  2. Lani

    OMG. We have those same tuk tuks in Siem Reap. They’re actually new for us because the last time we were here (6-8 years ago), our tuk tuks were carriages being pulled by motorbikes. These new ones (like your photo) are called pass apps (named after the app you use to get one). The most common color is white and yellow. I think they’ve been here for a year or two. Haven’t seen a red one yet! I use these to get to and from work!

    • 2summers

      Interesting! We’ve had these in Joburg for about 10 years but they haven’t taken off in other neighborhoods as much as they seem to in Noordgesig. We have a few of them in Melville.


Leave a Reply