Off on a mission to explore street art in downtown Joburg, Ryan Enslin jumps into the ultimate urban cruising machine, fully charged of course, having spent the day working in a vertical village.
In the heart of Sandton the Black Brick Club building is painted a shade of charcoal that would have excited Henry Ford. Something interesting is happening here; a small revolution is taking place as South Africa embraces the sharing economy, and takes a step towards the daily reality of electric vehicles.
The Sharing Economy
The sharing economy is a socio-economic system built around the sharing of resources. Goods and services are acquired in ways that often fly in the face of convention, with disruptors usually shaking things up. Think Uber.
Add to the mix the Black Brick Club and their lifestyle vision made real today, a concept they’ve coined as a Vertical Village, and you have a space and service offering that really interests me. And one that will appeal to most digital nomads as we start defining for ourselves what our new normal should look and feel like. Exciting times.
A Vertical Village
The Vertical Village concept embraces the ethos of work, live, play and, ultimately, growth. In one space. Networking amongst members, both local and (soon to be) offshore ensures a prime environment for creative and entrepreneurially minded folks to thrive in.
When you make use of any of the Black Brick Club services from their Sandton property, you have the ability to book one of the new Electric Mini Cooper SE’s using the custom designed Mini Sharing App. Being run as a proof of concept and to be rolled out at more locations across South Africa soon, it’s ideal for when you need to quickly pop out. Or head off to the Magaliesburg for the day, as one does from time to time.
Staying at the Black Brick Club offered me the perfect location from which to edit some photos, work on a draft of an upcoming article and jump onto a Zoom call, as I planned new travel adventures. Their co-working space is wonderfully equipped and well laid out for a productive, digital nomad kind of day. And the rooms are rather spacious and well-appointed with comfy beds. A win all round I say.
Itching to put the new Mini Sharing App to use, I booked myself a car and decided to go explore the street art and graffiti scene in downtown Johannesburg. With the Electric Mini’s range of 215km, there was plenty of capacity to explore. The app is great, easy to use and serves as your key to unlock, lock and start the car. As many times as you like! I loved the whole concept and experience.
The Painted City
Attracting both local and international talent, the inner city of Johannesburg abounds with a varied range of street art and graffiti works, becoming somewhat of a graffiti art destination city. A rich heritage of social commentary can be found in many of the pieces, which I was keen to explore.
The Great Dane Bar piece has always interested me and was to be my first stop. Executed as a commercial piece by the artist Dekor, I have always been fascinated by the rich colours and textures that lie within it. The Great Dane itself captures the unique personalities these great animals possess; love the poise and elegance.
The City Power Substation in Braamfontein is a treasure trove of artworks which resulted from a recent City of Gold Graffiti Festival hosted by the city. What makes this location of particular interest is the fact that all artists featured on the building are local South Africans. What a testament to our homegrown talent! Featured in my shot below, from right to left are works by Tyler B Murphy, Mr Ekse, Breeze Yoko, Dreda and Page 33.
Braamfontein has many great pieces on various buildings throughout this regenerated inner city district. Favoured by property owners and developers as a great way to uplift and paint their buildings, this approach also impacts favourably on the area as a whole. The Great Dane piece in particular is a favourite stop amongst Instagrammers.
This part of downtown Johannesburg is well known for graffiti works done as non-commissioned pieces. The industrial vibe of the area, reminiscent of Brooklyn, New York and Shoreditch, London, lends itself well to layered and textured works of art.
The first piece I came across in Newtown was a joint work by the artists Rekso and Love and was carried out as multiple pieces over time. A very animated conversation appears to be taking place between the characters, leaving space for reflection and interpretation as to what that may have been.
Continuing on my Newtown exploration, I came across a piece by graffiti and tattoo artist Rasty. Well known for his works across the inner city, Rasty has largely been responsible for putting Johannesburg on the graffiti map. To me, the one eye popping out of the skull and its rather whimsical hair-do made for an interesting take on people watching, a pastime I am rather fond of.
Driving past an old silo building, something rather special lay in wait. Serving as a graffiti guestbook, artist have, over time, left their mark in this rather unique, industrial spot. Marks from both local and notable international artists abound on machinery that hasn’t worked in years. I loved the textures in this space, both in terms of the old machinery as well as the graffiti added.
Let me share my adventures with you in this little video I put together.
— Getaway Magazine (@GetawayMagazine) August 4, 2021
The Black Brick Club concept is currently available at their Sandton and Green Market Square, Cape Town, properties. The end of this year will see Umhlanga being added to the mix. A little birdy told me that the concept is also being taken international, with the team seeking out sites in Los Angeles, Austin and Dubai. That’s a story I can get behind – sharing South African innovation with the rest of the world.
Electric mobility with tons of character, art made available to every man, woman and child and a vision for living that meets my needs today – now that’s revolutionary in my book.
A big shout out to Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences who led me on the tour of this fantastic art. Her knowledge of the works and in particular the artists is simply phenomenal. Past Experiences offer a wide variety of tours around Johannesburg. Connect with Jo and her team on the web or Instagram. Or do things the old fashioned way and pop her an email on [email protected].