Jeppestown Tour with Past Experiences

Top: oldest church in Joburg-St.Mary’s the Less. Bottom: Jooste & Bryant’s building, one of the oldest surviving

This Saturday was a rather busy one, but in a good way. There were tons of things happening in Joburg as usual, and unfortunately I could not possible make it to all of them. Hence, I had to choose between spending a lazy morning browsing fresh produce at a farmers’ market or going on a walking tour with one my favourite tour companies, Past Experiences. I decided to go with the latter as having been on several other tours with the fabulous Jo Buitendach of Past Experiences, I needed no further encouragement! (You can read about some of the other tours here and here)

So on a cold, cold Saturday morning, with warnings of possible rain, K and I along with a friend set off for Jeppestown. We met Jo and the rest of the tour at a local eatery on 28 Madison Street. Jeppestown is said to be the oldest suburb in Johannesburg, established by Julius Jeppe around 1886 (or so). It was originally a Natal (KZN) mining camp and a lot of the streets have been named after miners who lived here.

Coincidentally, the thriving and hip Maboneng Precinct also falls under Jeppestown but it is not often that people venture to the ‘real’ Jeppestown – gritty and old with streets lined with spaza shops run by immigrants from other African countries.


Like most other areas of the inner city, Jeppestown too has its own collection of fabulous graffiti. Jo told us how some of the international and local artists had been engaging the local community in the area, especially during the annual graffiti festival held in Joburg. Some of the pieces we saw were actually of children of the area!

During the course of the walk, we also got the opportunity to visit the Kwa Mai Mai market, a traditional medicine or ‘muti’ market. Snake skin, animal parts, herbs and lots of traditional clothing and beads are common sights here. Not only does the market sell medicines, but they also make coffins and traditional wooden boxes used in weddings. A strange combination but they seemed to be thriving!

Wares at the Kwa Mai Mai  market
Wares at the Kwa Mai Mai market

As we walked from one street to another, Jo pointed out some old buildings like the Grand Station Hotel and Jooste & Bryant’s buildings where the old and historic styles were easily identifiable.

For this walk, Past Experiences had joined hands with Bjala, a company that provides low cost housing, employment and runs projects in the area. This gave an an opportunity to interact with Malibongwe, a local resident of Jeppestown who works for Bjala. Not only did he give us some rare insights about the area but he also took us to the Bjala offices (located on the roof of one of the buildings with stunning views) and showed us a sustainable farming project where they use fish, water and the sun to grow stuff! No soil is involved.

At the end of the tour,  a fabulous South African lunch awaited us at the local eatery where we had started from. I was so famished that I forgot to take any pictures of the incredible food! Pap, chakalaka, braaied meat, veggies and beans – the food was simple but to die for.

Malibongwe from Bjala explaining the sustainable farming project
Malibongwe from Bjala explaining the sustainable farming project


Past Experience Tours:

Cost: R190 per person (food was included)

Time: 10am to 1pm.


4 thoughts on “Jeppestown Tour with Past Experiences

    1. I am still awestruck by those. So much talent..and all of it os free hand! No stencil, no grids…amazing. thanks for reading Amy

  1. Such a great tour, Mia. The street art certainly looks impressive – very, very lifelike sketches and it must have taken a while to do. The market sounds like a place where you could spend all day browsing things 😀 The real Jeppestown is I suppose where the locals really live, though gritty as you said and perhaps shady…but I suppose if you are careful and go with a guide then it’s okay to hang around 🙂

    1. One can go to Jeppestown without a guide too…its a little gritty but as long as you are aware and careful, its going to be fine. However, at the kwa mai mai market I am told its best to go with a guide. And that is only because its a spiritual kind of place. So we must know the do’s and don’ts and not overstep boundaries as tourists.

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