Your Next Big Trip

ReBirth Festival: A Joburg Afro-Awakening

Once in Joburg

As usual, finding myself at a loss for New Year’s plans, I hit up everyone I knew in Africa to see what was happening around the continent. Some were going to Zanzibar, others to Kilifi in Kenya (possibly my plan for next year!) but when I found out Afropunk were bringing their latest installment to Johannesburg, South Africa, my mind was set. It’s one of my favourite cities and I am always seeking out new creative things to do in Joburg.  As if the world wanted me to be there, my friend Jenny (a.k.a Discovering Legacies) called to say that she was also going to be working there- “But you have to come a week earlier for Rebirth!”

Rebirth Festival: An Afro Re-Awakening, is a fringe festival organised by the boutique hostel Once in Joburg.

It aims to encourage guests to experience the culture, tastes and sounds of African culture, through the eyes of local poets, musicians and creatives. When I travel, I always like to keep it local so it sounded like the perfect way to experience Jozi life, and I wasn’t wrong!


Let the relaxation begin!

When I arrived at Once, I knew straight away that it was my kind of place. The friendly Thobs introduced herself and gave me a quick tour. The hostel is the perfect mix of social and chill spaces. Downstairs there are beanbags, a reading corner and a reasonably priced bar/restaurant called The Immigrant. Upstairs there is a spacious cooking and dining area, a balcony and a movie theatre full of mattresses for optimum chilling.

Rebirth Festival

Last time I was in Joburg, I stayed in the awesome Maboneng district, but I think next time I would stay in Once again just for the atmosphere they create. I bought a week long pass for the full Rebirth Festival but most of the activities are available all year round.

As the festival is expected to change from year to year, I’ll give you the ones that made the top of my list of things to do in Johannesburg.

Traditional Zulu Poetry and Dinner

Rebirth Festival

On the night I arrived, we were treated to a performance by a local poet and musician. The artist played drums and performed a spoken word piece that highlighted the real life struggles faced by South Africans today. While this was taking place, we indulged in a traditional South African meal, my favourite, Bunny Chow! Bunny Chow is nothing to do with bunnies (as I initially feared!), rather it is what the locals call hollowed out bread filled with curry. We ate this accompanied by maize, pap and vegetables.

We also had the option to try traditional South African tripe, but I am not an adventurous eater so gave that a skip. I highly recommend some traditional food and drinks when in Joburg!

Braam by Bike

Johannesburg Bike Tour

Biking with the lovely Julie from Frame Ambition

Once in Joburg is situated in the neighbourhood of Braamfontein. Usually populated with students, we found it pretty empty when we were there. This made it terrible for nightlife but perfect for cycling. The tour took us from the 100 year old Kitchener’s pub to Wits University and everywhere in between.

The creativity in Braam is awe-inspiring. We visited a fashion startup by a group of ex highschool classmates and took in the street art along the way.

Braam by Bike

My favourite stop was to the rooftop bar, Randlords. The building is currently unoccupied apart from the bar on the 22nd floor. The views of Johannesburg are perfect.

Braam by Bike

Braam by Bike

With the Braam by Bike Crew

Braam by Bike give this tour daily and you can book through Once in Joburg.

Check out my top rooftop spots in Dar es Salaam when you’re finished reading!

Traditional Beer Brewing in Soweto

When I backpacked South Africa on the Baz Bus, Soweto was the highlight of the trip. I love visiting places full of creativity, history and down to earth people and Soweto is all of those things. The beer brewing workshop deserves a whole post of its own (someday I’ll get to it!) but here are the highlights:

Once in Joburg


Soweto Beer Brewing

Beer Brewing Soweto

Slightly grainy but totally delicious. All organic and gluten free too!

I spent the rest of Rebirth Festival listening to spellbinding music performances, chatting with fellow bloggers, creatives and designers and browsing the innovative designs at the Once in Joburg marketplace. This was the first year that Afropunk came to Joburg. Therefore it was the first year of Rebirth Festival too. Afropunk have committed for the next 5 years so I hope this creative fringe festival grows with it.

Before you go, read some more about travelling in South Africa.

The Almost Perfect 2 Week South Africa Backpacking Itinerary

Backpacking South Africa on the Baz Bus

A Guide to Maboneng, Johannesburg

The Best Backpacker Hostels in South Africa

Once in Joburg


23 thoughts on “ReBirth Festival: A Joburg Afro-Awakening

  1. Ana Ro

    I loved the poetry on the window, especially the play together win together 🙂 South Africa seems to have so much to offer, I wish to go there once too.

  2. Gini

    I would love to read more about the beer brewing workshop. The festival sounds like a great way to bring in the new year. A good way home to get around and see more of a place is by bike as you can stop as and when you please.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      The festival was the perfect mix of relaxation and fun so it was the ideal way to spend the last week of the year!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I totally understand the nervousness but South Africa is a very easy country to travel solo. The first time I backpacked from Cape Town to Joburg using the Baz Bus and met lots of really cool people () This time I stayed at Once Hostel and, like many hostels in South Africa, the line between staff and guest is almost non-existent so you feel completely at home from the moment you arrive.

  3. Jennifer

    You could really see and feel that the organizers really thought this festival through and tried to bring as much Jozi culture into it!

    Loved it and would do it all over again with you 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I totally agree. Every element was thoroughly planned to make sure guests felt at home and experienced real Jozi culture. Here’s to Rebirth 2018!

  4. Anya

    Cycling seems like a great way to see the area! I’d definitely be down for that! The festival looks amazing, I’d love to visit South Africa someday!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      You definitely should! The culture is so varied, as is the landscape so I think it’s impossible to get bored there!

  5. Alicia

    What a great festival!! Afropunk in joburg sounds fantastic and seems like you had a good time. Joburg sounds wonderful. I am so intrigued by the Bunny Chow!!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Bunny Chow is one of my favourite things about South Africa. I think it originated in the Indian communities in Durban but any time Ive had it in Joburg it has been perfect 🙂

  6. Rachelle

    What an awesome way to be completely immersed in Jozi culture! I would just love to listen to local poets while eating traditional food. I know that it can be a bummer when there’s not a lot of people around town to hang out with and party, but it sounds like you were able to have an enjoyable time on the bikes!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Yeah it was definitely a little weird to find the city so empty but luckily my hostel had enough activities and fun people to keep me occupied. In the end I left with the feeling that I’d been let in on a little secret that so few got to experience!

  7. Kristen Tcherneshoff

    Looks like such a cool experience! I really want to try to head down there for Afropunk this year, so maybe a week early is a good idea!

    Did you end up going to Afropunk also? What did you think of it?

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I did! It was amazing- the fashion, the friendliness, the music, the art, the culture. Even unexpected rain couldn’t damped the spirits. I highly recommend staying at Once for Rebirth and heading to Afropunk for New Years. It’s well worth experiencing South African culture before the festival.

  8. Ella

    Honestly, I’d never considered going to Joburg. Whenever I visit South Africa, I just dash through it as a result of it’s bad rep. However, you have made me completely reconsider my thoughts! The culture looks wonderful and look how happy everyone looks in the photos. It just goes to show you should never rule a place out because of a few things you’ve heard. Sure, you should still be careful in Joburg but that’s no reason to avoid it altogether.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Sadly, most people do the same. I only stayed for 2 days on my first trip and spent the next 6 months trying to figure out ways to get back there. This time I spent 6 days there and most people thought it was way too long and I would get bored. I’m now planning my 3rd trip there- the place is infectious!

  9. Haley

    what a perfect and original way to spend New Years. South Africa has been high on my bucket list since I was a child. I loved reading your post 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I hope you get to visit there! It’s one country I’ve visited that just has everything. Even Cape Town alone has beach, city and a mountain!