A whimsical yet powerful new mural erected in the informal township of Khayelitsha, South Africa has been making waves on social media since its completion. Painted upon a north-facing wall in the heart of the Cape Town township, the beautiful piece depicts the likeness of a young girl named ‘Boniswa’. Conceptualised and painted by Johannesburg-based artist Breeze Yoko, the mural is a dedication to those who he views as holding the key to our future: the black girl child.
Gazing past her home, ‘Boniswa’ is painted with her hands above her eyes, squinting toward the horizon through the punishing glare of the sun. Yoko, a multidisciplinary artist specializing in video and graffiti works, says he discovered the wall before he knew that Boniswa would inhabit it. “The position of the wall just lent itself to what the painting became,” he says. “You literally have to block your eyes to see Table Mountain.”
Painted over the course of a month (albeit a few days of waiting out the Cape’s Winter rain), Yoko used his unique visual language to highlight different social and political issues. ‘Boniswa’ is, in his words, always looking toward the sun and always looking toward the iconic Table Mountain – a landmark Yoko laments many children from Khayelitsha will never get to visit. “… Actually, they hardly even leave the hood,” he writes.
Having grown up in similar circumstances, Yoko understands the strong sense of neglect felt by many children – particularly girls – who live in the townships. He hopes that those who encounter ‘Boniswa’ will be forced to more deeply consider the young people of their communities and do more to equip them with the tools to determine their futures.
Despite the excitement around the creation, Yoko is reluctant to impose his understanding of her purpose on his audience.
“I don’t want to dictate what the painting should mean,” he told Destiny Connect. “I believe it should say something different to every person. Some people have said the girl in the painting is seeing danger; some have said she’s seeing hope. Others just have really weird reactions – one kid walked away from the painting screaming, ‘She’s ugly! She’s ugly!’ That’s what made me feel good about the wall itself, because whoever sees it, takes whatever they receive from it. At the end of the day, her eyes are looking at you; you’ll figure out yourself why.”