Contra Fair Joburg
Contra Fair Joburg. ©Ogorogile-Nong

The Creative Circuit: Experiencing the Magic of Contra.Joburg

This past weekend, Johannesburg buzzed with activity, and as Between 10and5, we were thrilled to dive into the artistic celebration that is Contra.Joburg.

Among the many events happening in the city (possibly the busiest weekend of 2024 so far), Contra.Joburg stood out, drawing art lovers in their numbers to explore 13 city studio spaces and interact with around 200 artists.

Originally known as OpenStudios.Joburg, Contra.Joburg was founded in 2022 by Sara Hallatt, director of META foundation. This two-day event has grown to become Joburg’s largest on-the-ground art festival, designed to give people direct access to artists in their studios, build new art markets, and unlock opportunities for the diverse base of visual artists in the Johannesburg city centre.

We were there to witness the excitement as art enthusiasts hopped on and off the shuttle transport provided by the event, venturing into different art hubs and spaces. One of the most refreshing sights was the diverse range of age groups enjoying the city, with families coming out in full force. This year’s Contra.Joburg included several kids’ activity spaces, which proved to be a hit and are set to expand in future events.

©ogorogile Nong Contra Fair Images 202

Two of the largest artist hubs, the Creative Uprising Hub at Transwerke in Constitution Hill and August House, saw record numbers of visitors. We were amazed by the vibrant energy and creativity flowing through these spaces. Design events at Nando’s Central Kitchen (Nando’s being a proud sponsor of Contra.Joburg) sold out quickly, while in Braamfontein, the graffiti walks hosted by CitySkate Tours from Grayscale Gallery were a crowd favorite.

As we mingled with artists and fellow art lovers, the impact of Contra.Joburg was palpable. In its first two years, the event facilitated over R2-million in sales, with artworks starting at around R500. This year’s sales figures are still being tallied, but the enthusiasm and support for local artists were undeniable.

“As Contra.Joburg, our aim is to turn the art world on its head by putting the artists first, then the market; to build a strong and sustainable visual arts ecosystem through support programmes, market development, and creating visibility for artists in the Johannesburg city centre,” explained Sara Hallatt, founder and Director of the META foundation and Manager of August House.

“We work with artists, and we want to open up the visual arts to all South Africans. We want to give open access to people to see art as it is made in the studio, to meet and engage with artists directly, and to meaningfully be part of Joburg’s art world.”

With the support of Nando’s, Yoco, Itoo Insure, and Diversity, this year’s Contra.Joburg was a resounding success. 

At Between 10and5, we were privileged to experience firsthand the magic and creativity that define Johannesburg as a true art city. We left feeling inspired, energized, and eager to continue supporting and celebrating the incredible talent within our vibrant community.