A glimpse into Jozi's rising street art culture

2016-12-03 10:31 - Carina Greeff
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Cape Town - Street art is popping up all over Jozi, and the rest of South Africa for that matter. Durban, Cape Town and Joburg are street art hot spots and street artists and appreciators are fond of areas like Woodstock, Newtown and Troyville to name a few.

Drawing concern to the street art culture in Johannesburg is newly elected mayor Herman Mashaba's decision that street art bylaws should be redrafted in a fair and transparent process. This has caused negative reaction from street artists who believe street art excites, and if done correctly, should be encouraged.

For the time being, however, the city's current public arts policy encourages legal public street art, providing a valuable asset to Johannesburg that attracts tourists, empowers artists, generates business opportunities and even gains input and awareness from global brands like Strongbow.

A tourist attraction

Apart from creating a refreshed look for the city and empowering local artists, travellers get to explore the city in an authentic way. Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences explains Johannesburg as jam-packed with graffiti and street art making it 'the epicentre of the South African graffiti scene' with 'big, bright and colourful characters and letters snaking their way across the walls'.

Photo by Jo Buitendach, Artist: Faith47

Stencils, stickers and smaller scale street art projects can be seen throughout Joburg, but the majority of works in the city centre are tags, throw-ups and large scale murals. Suburban Johannesburg is filled with smaller scale graffiti, but the city centre takes pride in large scale masterpiece and promotes it as an attraction.

Past Experiences is Joburg's original walking tour company and is passionate about the growth of street art in Joburg. Statues, sculptures and murals can be found throughout Jozi and Soweto, breathing colour and life into the streets and its people.

Johannesburg attracts South African and international street artists to make their mark on the streets, creating a trendy bucket list item on the typical Jozi itinerary -  a walking graffiti tour!

Buitendach, who also writes a monthly for Street Art Global, distinguishes between two forms of street art. Public art is formal, paid for and commisioned by the government or corporates, and street art and graffiti are sometimes commisioned by precincts or people like Maboneng.

Photo by Jo Buitendach, Artist: Fin

Taking a tour

Past Experiences do walking tours of both street art and public art in many different areas throughout the city centre. They also partner with a few graffiti artists who guide graffiti tours.

The most popular spots to scout for street art is Newtown, Jeppestown, Fairview, Maboneng, Braamfontein, Westdene and Troyeville. This can be explored by taking the Past Experiences walking tour.

You will see work by Myza420, Mars, Rasty, Tyke, Curio, Mein, Bias, Ryza, Riot, Drake and Tapz. International artists, Shepard Fairey, ABOVE, Atomik, TASSO, ROA and HERAKUT have also left their mark on the Jozi streets.

On special request, walking tours can be guided by street artists Mars and Bias - providing the real inside scoop of the art by the artists themselves.

Prices will vary based on duration and number of people. Keep an eye on Past Experiences for the January schedule.

Graffiti workshops are also lead by local artists. Contact Past Experiences for more information.

Street Art festivals

Two major festivals decorate the street art calender. 'Back to City' is a hip-hop and street culture festival which sees the Underpass pillars in the Newtown precinct painted by Joburg and Soweto’s leading and upcoming crews and artists. The next 'Back to City will take place on 27 April 2017. 

The 'City of Gold Festival' is an urban arts festival attracting local and international artists to produce large scale artworks. The festival takes place in October, but the 2017 festival date is yet to be confirmed.

What you can expect during a Past Experiences walking graffiti tour:

Click here to view full gallery

Photo by Jo Buitendach, Artist: Falko

Photo by Jo Buitendach, Artist: Tasso

Photo by Jo Buitendach, Artist: Veronika

Photo by Jo Buitendach, Artist: Mr Fuzzy Slippers

Commercial potential

In light of the rise of graffiti in Joburg, the apple cider drink Strongbow has teamed up with six talented local graffiti artists to add a bit of nature to the city walls.

Strongbow says their "passion for urban rejuvenation and their belief that nature is the ultimate refreshment" has led to the implementation of this project where four graffiti walls, three bridge pillars and seven high definition air-brushed walls have been refreshed by the team.

Photo: Supplied by Strongbow

Local artists ranging from 25 to 35 years in age, who are 'serious about taking on the streets at all costs' were chosen. By partnering with Kabelo Kale, Managing Director of Keys Communications artists from townships and urban communities are empowered. 

"It has been amazing to see our local artists bring their unique vision of natural beauty to life. I’m sure the local residents will agree that it has brought something new to the neighbourhood and has made these streets a pleasure to walk through,” says Kabelo.

Take a glimpse at some of the streetart that Strongbow has added to Jozi streets.

To see what Strongbow does next, keep an eye on the hashtag #NatureRemix

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