Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Street Art in Cape Town


Admiring local street art has become one of my favourite things to do on my travels.  It offers a perspective on local culture and attitude that you can't get in a museum.  But the best street art isn't often in the safest part of town, so in the interest of education and personal safety, I called Juma to take me around Cape Town in an area called Woodstock.   


Street art has been a growing art scene in Woodstock for the last ten years.  Many artists are now traveling to cape town specifically to work on their craft. If you ask me, it's the perfect place for a burgeoning art scene: there is a lot of inspiration to be drawn from the many different African cultures present in Cape Town, along with an intense political history and an overwhelming sense that they are experiencing a surge of positive energy. 


I asked Juma about the theme I'd interpreted during my week in Cape Town, which I was now observing on the walls.  It was this: that while Cape Town acknowledges its past and it's terrible violations of human rights, it also acknowledges that change takes time, perseverance and co-operation.  Juma agreed that things are by no means perfect, but that the community as a whole was willing to work together to make it the best it can be.  

I thought that this piece was a representation of team work as it shows Palestinians and Israelis dressed similarly but on either side of a tug-of-war.  I took two important messages away from this 1- that we're all inherently the same and 2- that if we keep pulling in opposite directions, we'll never get anywhere.  And it seems as though Cape Town is taking both of these philosophies to heart. 

One of the most interesting things that happened on our walk-about was the engagement we had with the locals.  As Juma and I stood talking in front of one piece, two men fixing a car stopped to ask us why this wall was important enough that we should be interested.  I thought it was a great moment because those guys had probably passed that wall, or many others like it and never paid any mind to it, never noticed its beauty or its meaning.  But now I, a foreigner, and they, locals were learning about the influence Juma and the other artists are having in Woodstock.  




This is a look at the streets of Woodstock with Devil's Peak in the background and on the painted wall in the foreground.  Folklore states the the devil was disguised as a man and challenged Jan van Hunks on that mountain.  In this piece however, the man is disguised as a zebra.

These dog paste-ups were posted all around Woodstock in varying sizes.  When I asked about them, I was told that they were meant to mark the location of suspected affairs: a neighbourhood watch for lovers, if you will.  So if one of these pops up around the corner from your place, I'd start asking some questions.                                                                                                         Woodstock also has a wonderful shopping centre that supports local artisans, artists, designers and chefs.  I would highly recommend sampling some chocolate and doing a little shopping.  It's not a very big place, but I ended up spending way more time in here than I had originally bargained for.