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Oh what a wonderful world … whatever the critics say

Reclaim the space: Youngsters get creative on a wall in Dove Street dedicated to the youth of Salt River and being painted by them under the guidance of artists

South Africa’s first International Public Art Festival is in full swing in Salt River with artists and local children changing the suburb by the day.

Long a lover of graffiti, I have swung by a few times this week and every time have found plenty of artists at work creating gob-smacking murals. The work is drawing children like magnets and there are always many more children at “work” than artists at every mural.

Artist Ruth Francis gets some guidance from local schoolchildren

You would have to have a heart of stone to not engage with these children but the artists are going further than getting their opinions and letting them dab a bit of paint here and there: they are running workshops and classes away from their creations to introduce these eager young people to the creative arts.

There have been some rumblings around town that the festival is somehow gentrification by stealth, that it is not what the residents of Salt River want, that it is being imposed on them by (I am guessing here) white monopoly capital/similar.

Surely carelessly applying this criticism to anything you don’t like, as if standing against gentrification is merely a fashion statement, confuses the real issues and steals air time and energy from the real battles?

As journalists we were particularly annoyed at this, left, which seemed like a pretty poor effort by the Cape Times on Tuesday.

The paper repeats questions/rumours about there being a lack of local artists and runs a picture of a large mural painted at the festival this week (I am reliably informed) by local graffiti/street artist DFeat447, aka Jason Redman, without crediting him.

Did they really not think to ask? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all hope for a correction and maybe even a little more effort next time …

Call Off The Search did a little research, privately canvassing the opinions of various locals. Without exception the feedback about the festival and organisers was positive, the only slightly tweezer-lipped responses coming from people whose houses weren’t being painted for whatever reason, for example slightly conservative parents having said no.

We also asked Warda Rahim, pictured, the much-loved head of the Salt River Civic, what she thought of the criticism. She told Call Off The Search that the organisers, the NPO Baz-Art, had been incredibly thorough in canvassing views in the neighbourhood and involving every one from the start. She expressed confidence about every aspect of this event, particularly about the educational aspect.

Also Baz-Art this week released a statement explaining the origins of the event and funding (entirely by the folks who had started it and for the love of art). They hope to raise money in the fullness of time to expand the festival and associated work but that is still a dream. Either way Baz-Art is a NPO and bound by that status.

Read the full statement and make up your own mind:

تم نشره بواسطة ‏‎International Public Art Festival – Cape Town – South Africa‎‏ في 14 فبراير، 2017

This weekend looks like it is going to be pretty epic, with the festival wrapping up with various events, including guided tours of the new works in the suburb, focused around the Blackpool football club in Shelley Road.

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1 Comment

  1. Well balanced article. A little research goes a long way; what a shame that it’s so quick and easy to declaim. The almost 15 year old and I look forward to the tour and events.

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