Walls that mark the passage of time

A tour of the street art in Cape Town's neighbourhoods reveals some hidden artworks in the city.

Part of the Project

Cape Town has been a magnet for street and graffiti artists stretching back to the days of the Apartheid Struggle. Then it provided an outlet against the backdrop of the country’s censorship laws, offering an anonymous and highly visible canvas to vent against the system. But graffiti is now officially illegal in Cape Town under the city's 2010 Graffiti By-Law. Artists caught painting can face fines of up to R15 000, unless they have achieved the cumbersome feat of getting a permit.

This is in complete contrast to the laws that originally enabled graffiti to achieve popular recognition in the city. We now see a slump in public art in Cape Town and a great rise of it in Johannesburg.

There are some historic and current gems dotted around the city, much of it on the gentrifying streets of Woodstock, much of it crumbling and fading away. A recent tour of Cape Town’s street art, arranged by the Cape Town Partnership, raised funds for #ANOTHERLIGHTUP, the crowdfunding art project by Design Indaba Trust, design studio Thingking and artist Faith47, that is erecting streetlights in a high-crime area in Khayelitsha's Monwabisi Park.

The tour revealed the stories – both real and imaginary ­– that have shaped the struggles, movement and dreams of the people who have lived there. The colours, styles and subject matter speak of the passage of time. We share them here with you.

Faith47’s “Harvest” mural on the side of a block of flats in District Six includes an electronic lighting system designed by Lyall Sprong and Marc Nicolson at Thingking. The lights illuminate each time a donation is made to the #ANOTHERLIGHTUP project, giving the work a new dimension after sunset. Read more about it here.
Hidden in a corner of the "Harvest" mural are the words "Don't let me down, my sweety", a reference to some scrawlings that Faith47 saw in an abandoned building.
The old Wall of Fame, as it is known, is in a secluded area by the train lines in Salt River that you would have to know about to find. From the late 1980s and well into the 90s, this spot was a popular canvas for many of the most prolific graffiti artists of the time.
This is one of very few recent works near the Wall of Fame.
Under an overpass near the train tracks you can see evidence of scrawlings, mostly by people sleeping under the bridges.
What remains of Faith47's notable piece, "The Cape of Good Hope", on Gympie Street in Lower Woodstock. The mural is an ironic statement – the now-peeling newspapers posters told the story of the tragic and sometimes horrific events that happen in the city every day.
A painted mural dedicated to local rapper Bonzaya Street Tyrant, who died in September.
One half of Faith47’s masterpiece, “The Freedom Charter”, on the corner of Grey and Albert road. One of the panels is missing – locals think it was stolen to be sold for scrap metals.
A mural painted in acrylic by London-based David Shillinglaw in 2011.
A piece by DAL on William Street featuring his trademark monochromatic linework and animal subject matter.
A piece by a young artist who goes by the name of The Jack Fox.
Part of a piece by Freddy Sam on a wall of a demolished house in the fast-gentrifying area of Woodstock.
This mural by Israeli artist Know Hope on the corner of Jersey and William Streets cleverly combines painted street art with graffiti style tagging.
Bright coloured mural painted onto a face-brick wall by Billy, aka Alex Godwin, on Frere Street.
Mural by Cape Town artist Nard S Tar on the side of a house just off Albert Road.
A classic graffiti style piece by Loco-Motive just off Albert Road.
Much of the street art is site-specific, incorporating features of the wall or the building on which it is painted. This piece by the artist Breeze has used a power box in the foreground, giving it a here-dimensional appearance.
A hidden treasure, this clever cat’s head is actually a relief. It has been painted onto layers of wood, which have then been glued onto this boarded up hatch.
Mural of an elephant by Australian artist Mike Makatron, who often paints animals in urban settings to remind people of their connection to nature.
This large and powerful mural, called "Not Eating", is by Argentine street artist JAZ, aka Franco Fasoli. It is located on the corner of Sussex and Wright streets.
An historical depiction of Woodstock's streets by Canadian artist Elicser and Andrzej Urbanski, who divides his time between Berlin and Cape Town.
In Khayelitsha, Faith47’s flowing cursive script spelling out a quote from the Freedom Charter has stood the test of time. Handpainted signs advertising local businesses sit alongside but this piece has been respectfully maintained since 2010.

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