I first visited the Oriental Plaza six-and-a-half years ago, on 18 August 2010, 12 days after I moved to Johannesburg. I know this because I wrote a blog post about it the following day.
The first photo I ever took at the Oriental Plaza, in August 2010.
I’ve been to the Plaza at least 50 times since that first visit (read about other visits here and here and here), and the place still awes and delights me every time. It’s always at the top of my list of recommendations for things to do in Joburg.
So imagine my joy when an opportunity arose to work with the Oriental Plaza on a social media campaign, encouraging people to come to the Plaza for an Instameet to kick off the Festive Season. (“Festive Season” is South African for “Holiday Season”.)
I am so, so excited to host an Instameet at the Oriental Plaza.
Our announcement for the upcoming Instameet — Instagram-speak for a gathering of photographers. As you can see, the Plaza is already decked out for Christmas.
It’s a mall, technically, but the Plaza bears no resemblance to the bland, suburban megamalls that Johannesburg is famous for. First of all, the Plaza is in Fordsburg, one of Joburg’s most multicultural areas and right on the edge of the city center. Second, there are no chain stores in the Plaza; every shop is individually owned, and some have been handed down through several generations. Third, the Plaza is a historic and cultural landmark — an important reminder of the atrocities of apartheid and the South African people’s perseverance in the face of those atrocities. (Read more about the history of the Oriental Plaza.)
Also, the Plaza is a really fun place to take photos. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve shot over the years.
Looking down on the Plaza’s Grand Bazaar, shot many years ago before my photography game was strong.
Zaheer, one of the proprietors of the legendary World of Samoosas.
Anita in a rabbit-fur vest (long story), posing with a funny mannequin. Mannequin photography is one of my favorite pastimes at the Plaza.
The Rajashree Boutique, which I visited my first time in the Plaza and still return to frequently. This shop is stuffed so full of dresses, scarves, skirts, wraps, and pillow covers that it’s nearly impossible to walk the aisles. I bought a skirt there last month that has since become my favorite article of clothing.
Moses, a staff member at Style Fabrics. My friend Fiver and I recently discovered Style Fabrics — it’s one of the best places in the Plaza to buy African-print fabric.
South African prints at Style Fabrics.
The Oriental Plaza Instameet
Back to the Instameet. It will start at 8:00 a.m. (I know it’s early but we want to give people a chance to photograph shop-owners as they’re getting ready to open their stores) on 3 December, and we’ll meet in front of the clocktower in the courtyard. The meet will be hosted by rad Jozi Instagrammers @alessiolr, @jefflovesphotography, and me. Everyone is welcome, photographers and non-photographers alike; this is a great opportunity to hang out with friends, explore the nooks and crannies of the Oriental Plaza, absorb some history and culture, and perhaps get some shopping done and eat samoosas while you’re at it.
I’ll be eating a few of these for sure.
I’ve saved the best for last: There’s a contest with awesome prizes. We’ll be asking Instameet attendees to post all of their photos to Instagram with the hashtag #ShopAtORP. A few days later, the Instameet hosts will get together to choose the first-place, second-place, and third-place photos, and the winners will receive shopping vouchers for the Oriental Plaza (R2500 for first prize, R2000 for second prize, and R1500 for third prize.)
These vouchers are bound to come in handy for anyone, as you can buy almost anything at the Oriental Plaza. It’s my shopping destination of choice for curtains, scarves, kitchen appliances, tailoring, shoe repairs, spices, and of course, samoosas.
At the Plaza with my friends Anita and Johnson, circa 2012.
The Oriental Plaza is located at 38 Bree Street and has tons of secure parking. Meet in front of the clocktower, which is closest to the Lilian Ngoyi Street parking entrance (Entrance #1). See you on 3 December.
This post was brought to you by the Oriental Plaza. Opinions expressed are my own.