THE WINDOWby Robyn Perros / 12.11.2015
Street art in Langa, Cape Town.
Imagine that a grey wall is not just a grey wall. Imagine that it’s a window into a new world. Maybe a world where elephants go on quests through the moon desert to find cacti filled with Cream Soda… Or a world where chameleons are dream catchers; stretching their tongues through keyholes to zap up children’s nightmares before they fall asleep…
Walking through Langa, it’s difficult to ignore the reality of burnt shacks, broken glass and the Sunday morning booze on the breaths. Like any place, Langa is oozing with its own set of social challenges. Art itself may not be able to fix them all but perhaps imagination can. We live in a world that pours poison down creativity and in places where reality is razor sharp, the power of (accessible) art cannot be underestimated. Because art allows us to imagine alternate realities, new possibilities and our own futures – and this has never been more important.
Red Bull Amaphiko is a collaborative platform for young entrepreneurs who are using their big brains, creativity and energy to solve social problems and make a positive change in the world. This November, Old Mutual partnered with Red Bull Amaphiko to give 16 inspiring entrepreneurs from around South Africa a 10 day training and mentorship programme. In addition to the iconic speakers, workshops and cultural events held predominantly in Langa – Red Bull brought some top street artists together to create a unique outdoor gallery…
Renowned Cape Town street artist, Falko One and international artists Monstariam (Kuwait) and Mundano (Brazil) were the official artists of the initiative. But word spread fast and other local street artists such as Skubalisto, Serge, Mr Migo, Rayaan Cassiem, Rob1, Conform, Jonny Koel, Drone and others teamed up to paint in Langa over the 10 days. I stumbled across the first mural on a walk and like Gretel with camera-Hansel, couldn’t stop following the colourful bread crumbs…
The neighbourhood chosen to paint was close to the Guga S’thebe Community Art Centre and perfect for creating an open outdoor gallery because of the road’s circular shape… much like an indoor gallery, just without the chandeliers and free wine. The aim of the 10 day street art initiative was to promote social innovation, uplift the area and collaborate.
The artists initially went door to door and asked for permission to paint from the locals. Most people were happy with it and soon the artists started getting requests to paint icons like Robert Sobukwe and ‘no dumping’ signs. The artwork seemed to inject the area with new energy and life. Community members began engaging with the artwork, cleaning up the area and fixing-up their gardens when the murals started attracting more and more visitors, such as the likes of legendary street art and graffiti photo-journalist – Martha Cooper (USA).
“It was amazing being able to work and socialize with artists from across the world,” said local artist Skubalisto. “It made me realize how close we are in this country to really being a world force in creativity – art, music, dance etc – we just have to believe in and support each other which we don’t necessarily do at the moment… We’re too busy watching what the rest of the world is doing…”
Langa is one of the oldest suburbs in Cape Town. Filled with rich histories and legacies; the sense of pride and community is evident but, as with any place, mind-sets are diverse. You’ll get those who spend their Sundays getting dagiwe in a dark shebeen and those who spend it making music out in the sunshine with the kids.
Langa was and still is considered ‘home’ by many influential South Africans such as late bubblegum pop legend – Brenda Fassie, former SA soccer midfielder – Thabo Mngomeni, jazz diva – Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa, renowned print-maker and mural artist – Velile Soha and many more. These are people who imagined or continue to imagine alternative realities and realized them.
Much like these influential people remind us what is possible, art – in all its marvelous forms – reminds us what we’re often forced to forget: That our imagination still exists and we can use it to change chip packets into constellations, walls into wonderlands and holes in the ceiling into windows to the universe…
*Lead Image: Langa resident, Olwethu Mtoto, 12 years old – has been skating for five years. Artwork by Falko One. Langa, Cape Town.
**Read Part II: Turning Corners
***Images © Robyn Perros.
****Shot on Canon 350D, 50mm lens.