In our urban landscape the billboard is king. We are constantly bombarded by the visual: Street pole ads, billboards, posters, fliers; you name it. But amidst the chaotic visual stimuli, Joburg offers something special: a vibrant culture of street art and graffiti that is rapidly gaining acceptance and credibility from locals. More so since the city of Cape Town introduced its Graffiti By-Law in 2010, fuelling an influx of graf artists to the City of Gold.
I'm a child of the city. A true Jozi girl; born in Berea, and schooled in Braamfontein. I feel my roots stretched deep into the heart of a city in a state of permanent flux. And nowhere is this flux more evident than in the Maboneng precinct, which bustles with creative energy and a blossoming art culture. Sure, it can be dingy. Crime is still present, and you have to dodge all manner of obstacles, from drunken hobos to cavernous cracks in the pavements. But all this melts away in that serendipitous moment when you glance at a bare wall, or down an open storm drain, to encounter something unexpected, and beautiful.
It is this exact moment that makes the Past Experiences tour such a fantastic adventure. The tour is a cultural expedition opening up the inner city for those who were previously afraid to enter; a walking experience from Maboneng to Troyeville which explores the underground world of Graffiti and street art.
Picture this: A warm, sunny Sunday. The sounds of jubilant worship drift in from the myriad churches populating the region (Troyeville has the highest concentration of churches in Johannesburg). We pass a wall decorated with bottle caps and pieces of mirror, adding another touch to the tapestry of graffiti. The place is a veritable magpie's den. The inhabitants step out to greet us: including the neighbourhood herbalist and her brood of curious children. She asks us to take a photo of her while she beams at our appreciation of her home.
Further down the street, a cat with one brown eye, one blue, tries to play with us through the window of the Troyeville Muthi shop. Each corner provides new discoveries, fuelled by interesting trivia from our guides. The tour is part archaeological dig, part art class.
We stop at a piece by Faith 47 (one of South Africa's best-known graffiti artists). While our guides wax lyrical on the nature of public art and the beautification of the area, two hobos amble past. They pause just outside our circle, look at the figure carved in the wall adjacent to the text and exclaim to each other: Jiss, d'is mooi! Somehow, that single moment says it all.
Where? Troyeville, CBD, Johannesburg
by Dominique Baxewanos