Fietas, now known as Pageview, is an historically important area in Johannesburg where residents were once brutally removed by apartheid authorities – it bears the scars
Fietas is a centrally located, small suburb made up of Pageview and Vrededorp. It is near the city and conveniently located for Wits University academics and students.
It was a multiracial area until the late 1970s, when most residents were relocated as part of the apartheid government’s policy of forced removals and ethnic segregation.
Often likened to Sophiatown and District Six in Cape Town, Fietas still bears the scars of the removals. Partly demolished buildings sit alongside heritage homes.
Established in 1894 to the west of central Johannesburg, Fietas was once home to a large Indian community. Today it retains a strong Muslim culture.
Many of the large buildings survive and many small homes, mostly semi-detached, are neatly packaged in the village.
The first part of the 20th century saw a bustling centre (14th Street) that attracted shoppers from all over Johannesburg and all racial backgrounds.
Today the street has a quiet suburban feel and is home to the Fietas Museum, opened in 2013. The beautifully restored shops boast high ceilings and attractive entrances.
Photographs by David Goldblatt create a visual journey of the trauma of the removals and the type of life before the exodus.
Salma Patel, curator of the museum and a passionate resident, says the area needs intervention by local government.
“They haven’t resolved many land claims and are dragging their feet when it comes to looking after heritage buildings.”
She says vagrants have moved onto much of the vacant land. “Owners of historical buildings and the relevant land have let everything deteriorate and this affects resident morale.”
Between 1969 and 1979, the apartheid government began the demolition of Fietas, but a handful of homeowners resisted and stayed. Today the area has several vacant plots.
Patel was born in Fietas, and now lives with her family above the museum. Her passion is to see her birthplace resurrected.
An ambitious residential development within the old Telkom and Postal Services enclave will create around 300 apartments.
The industrial-style buildings are being upcycled to create studio and loft apartments for academics at nearby Wits university and student accommodation.
Property specialist for Choprop Properties, Shahana Theba, also born and raised in Fietas, says it is a buyers’ market and property changes hands frequently.
“Most homes are free-standing. The houses are old and few have been upgraded.”
Residents come from lower to middle income groups. The suburb has sense of community, camaraderie and rich culture across the divides.
Theba says aside from the ideal location and affordability, the area’s homeowners and residents have many amenities handy.
“The local grocery stores sell almost everything, there are many take-away shops in the area, and within 3km is Fordsburg with restaurants serving all types of food.”
Fietas is often likened to areas like Sophiatown and District 6 due to its history of forced removals during apartheid. Pictures: Bhekikhaya Mabaso
Wall art under a railway bridge between Fordsburg and Pageview recalls the history of the area.
There are many historical homes and buildings in the area.