The project aimed to make the district visually pleasing and safer through a series of artistic and infrastructure changes 

Newtown precinct has recently been revitalised as the result of a R 3-million partnership between the office of Geoff Makhubo, the late mayor of Johannesburg and the Newtown Improvement District (NID).   

The project started in July 2021 and is expected to be complete by mid-September 2021. Urban Space Management, a Johannesburg based non-profit organisation is working in partnership with Museum Africa, Sci-Bono, the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and the Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA).  

The completed visual aspects of the project are the most noticeable. These include the murals painted along the streets of Newtown and the “Piano keys” in the middle of Mary Fitzgerald square. They were done by Dbongz Mahlathi, and two other graffiti artists. 

Farai Mafurirano, creative director at Moja Nation, the company in charge of some of the visual aspects of the district changes, says that these three artists were chosen because their contribution would prevent future tagging and vandalism of these spaces. “Especially with Bongz’s murals. Since he is well known in the graffiti scene, by having them where they are, other graffiti artists won’t paint [over] these spaces for a certain radius because that is part of how graffiti culture works,” Mafurirano says 

According to Chanel Pather, one of the urban managers at Urban Space Management, the Newtown Revitalisation project would have been completed a lot earlier were it not for delays caused by the pandemic.  

Other changes and improvements include cleaning up the area, disinfecting spaces, replacing and fixing broken infrastructure, which has led to repaving parts of the square, replacing missing manhole covers, and installing palisade fences.  

Thando Gumede, urban manager in the NID, says the renovation was motivated by a need to revitalise the district and draw in more visitors. “In any environment, if something looks unkempt, people won’t respect it.” 

The project has made notable changes to Newtown already. The vibrant murals draw onlookers’ attention, the sanitation and cleaning have reduced the amount of litter and foul smells in the area – making Mary Fitzgerald square and its surroundings seem much brighter and safer.  


FEATURED IMAGE: The bridge on Devilliers Graaf Motorway features some of the new murals painted by Dbongz. Photo: Rebecca Kgabo.