Joburg is full of surprising and innovative spaces to visit – and its fun to discover something new.

Victoria Yards is one of my favourite recent discoveries.  It’s a sprawling 30,000 m2 urban farm- like space of refurbished buildings, now galleries, studios and workshops for artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs. The architectural character of the original buildings built in 1924 remains intact.  Victoria Yards is situated in Lorentzville on the eastern edge of Jo’burg’s CBD, and there is safe parking within the grounds.

This commercial enterprise was the brainchild of developer Brian Green of 44 Stanley fame.  Brian says: It was both a dream and a passion to bring together an eco-system where tenants work together as a community. One of the main projects is the gardens, where row upon row of vegetables and fruit are grown as part of a skills upliftment programme.

Best time to go is the 1st Sunday of the month when all the artists and artisans open their doors to meet and chat.  It is open during the week but you might miss many of the artists.

Last Sunday I took Jeroen Oerlemans and Scott Rodman, two long stay guests, to Victoria Yards.

Jeroen Oerlemans and Scott Rodman, two long stay guests at Amanzi Guest House.  After a 17 month stay at Amanzi, Jeroen goes home to the Netherlands tomorrow.

We spent a happy three hours wandering along the brick paths, lined with edible gardens – vegetables, herbs and fruit, fig and apricot trees, mealies, verbena and more .

Walkways lined with edible gardens – lemongrass, spinach, passion fruit (known in SA as Granadillas) Mulberry trees…

Some of the top artists in the country have their studios here – Blessing Ngobene, Benon Lutaaya, Ayanda Mabulu, Roger Ballen and James Delaney, who with his team has renovated The Wilds, (see a previous blog on The Wilds) a park that was notoriously dangerous and not used, and now walkers with or without dogs enjoy recreational time in this revitalized area.  I spoke to James and he has a new venture happening at The Wilds.  We’ll be walking there soon to check out what James has done.

James Delaney outside his Studio Gallery, filled with a diversity of his art and sculptures.

We all loved Hannelie Coetzee’s  Hyenas created out of bits of wood, an old tennis racquet press and other bits of “junk”  – she’s just set up her Studio at Victoria Yards and it was her first open day.  Hannelie told us she had been inspired to create the Hyenas when she heard about how they come into Joburg through the Green Corridor.  Did you know that there have been several reports of Brown Hyenas spotted in and around Johannesburg?   The intention behind her sculptures is to explore the relationship between humans and nature.  Read this fascinating article on Hyenas in the Kloofendal Reserve and West Rand region.

Hannelie Coetzee outside her new Studio at Victoria Yards

There are a variety of crafts and street food vendors on offer and colour and delicious aromas fill the space.

The lady with the blue hair…

Street food vendors offer a variety of take away treats…

A whole bunch of people hanging out

Including a Gin distillery. Scott insisted we test the Primal Spirits offerings – we sipped our gins around a rustic old table while Irvin Smith, owner, regaled us with tales of making gin… do visit Primal Spirits and taste their gins for yourself.  Primal spirits use both green and red Juniper berries and other natural botanical flavorings.

Jeroen, Scott and Pam enjoying G & T’s at Primal Spirits

The beautiful copper Gin Distillery at Primal Spirits

I loved the ethos and story behind Tshepo’s Jeans …. So many of our young men and women in SA are influenced and raised by grandmothers, aunts or relatives…

It’s an attractive shop with a wide range of denim jeans and Thsepo t-shirts for sale…if you do pop in please tell Tshepo you read this blog and were curious to see for yourself.

Then it was time for lunch in the courtyard at Foakes Coffee Bar, Roastery and bakery.

Foakes source a variety of beans from all over the world.  They hand-roast their beans, as needed in small batches.  We had great cappuccinos and Baguettes filled with fresh veggies from the garden, artisanal cheese, all made on site by Happy and her crew.  This time is was Jeroen who insisted on ordering and sharing a slice of cheese cake and the triple layered chocolate cake. Its the best cheese cake in town, according to Lorraine who works for James Delaney.  We all agreed!  There are lots of pastries, different kinds of breads, and other Foakes Deli specialities too.

Jeroen, Scott and Pam in the Courtyard at Foakes Bakery

I’m going back to explore more on the 5th April, the next open day…  There are tons of shops I didn’t get to… hope to see you there too!