Graffiti in South Africa has always been a contentious1
topic. It’s been called public art, vandalism, a tool for social change, a gateway to further crime and urban degradation, it’s an artform with various symbolic meanings and is only recently experiencing widespread corporate backing and interest
in the public sphere. There are a number of contributing factors towards this, namely graffiti walking tours, brands that make use of the aesthetic in advertising, the role of social media, and rapidly urbanised areas that make use of commissioned graffiti.
By the early 2000s, graffiti had already solidified itself in South Africa with a growing number of artists and graffiti crews in all of its major cities. In Cape Town the graffiti scene was thriving2
. Around the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, however, the city of Cape Town implemented a series of by-laws to tidy up the city for its esteemed international guests. Interestingly, just before kick-off, legal murals began springing up3
at strategic points all over town in an effort to showcase Cape Town’s eclectic community of artists.
An artist who’s well known for his commissioned work is Damn Vandal. Legal pieces and murals in the public eye, he believes, have the power to change and uplift the environment. “Whenever I approach homeowners and businesses for their walls, I base it on making the area look better, especially in areas that are run down and derelict.”
Once a crime ridden area, Cape Town’s Woodstock now sports a host of street art and public murals. As a medium that extends itself to almost every corner of a city for all to see, graffiti has always been (and probably still is) one of the few true forms of public art in the country. It is a golden artform that can now exist in gallery spaces as well as lower income areas, for all to see and appreciate.