What does Cape Town have in common with New York, Sao Paulo, Berlin, London and Paris? It may not appear as the obvious answer at first, but Cape Town joins these other cities as one of the world’s top destinations when it comes to graffiti or street art, as is fast becoming the preferred term. Traversing simple acts of vandalism and maturing into a fully fledged art form, street art is conscious of itself and its strength to communicate with people. For this reason street art, perhaps more than any other form of art, carries strong social and political messages. This is incredibly evident on the streets of Cape Town, which abound with striking pieces that are not only beautiful but also insightful and loaded with meaning. From political icons such as Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko, heroes of the struggle against apartheid, to works that highlight issues of social injustices such as the abuse of women and the gap between the poor and rich – very real issues that South Africa is struggling to come to terms with – Cape Town’s street art gives a voice to the voiceless and a forum for authentic expression in the urban wilderness.
Street artists are a special breed. Ever weary of the system, they conceal their identities behind aliases, treat the streets as their canvas, and live like revolutionaries, albeit trading guns for spray paint cans. In a world where some or other form of corporate branding or advertising is shoved in your face 24 hours a day, a world accustomed to an overload of plastic images and ideas, the street artist is a shining rebel brave enough to express themselves, even if for a fleeting moment, and claim ‘I was here and I have something to say’.
One such artist is Faith47, one of Cape Town’s most influential and prolific street artists. From the inner city to the surrounding townships, to the sides of highways and shacks, Faith has fearlessly displayed her art to the city of Cape Town. Working against the elements, the dangers of the streets, and society’s gender stereotypes that don’t look to fondly on a female street artist, Faith continues to astound with her large scale and beautiful murals, giving back to the streets that have inspired her, and infiltrating the minds of an audience of thousands. In a recent interview with Senses Lost, Faith had this to say: ‘Why should we restrict ourselves to the white walled galleries where there are cities with aching grey walls. Cities need a human touch, not adverts and billboards. We as people need to see what other people are thinking and feeling, not what the advertisers would like us to be thinking and feeling…’
Street art changes on a regular basis in Cape Town, but there is always a lot of it about and a lot of hidden surprises waiting for those who are willing to explore the city and surrounding regions. If you wish to see the colourful street art in the townships we would recommend doing it through a tour company offering township tours. Otherwise if you are looking for good street art in the city, your best bet will be to drive around or ask a local resident if they know of any good pieces. You likely won’t have to travel far before coming across something amazing. Good luck!
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