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Monday, March 16, 2020


This week on Inside Africa, CNN International meets South Africa’s street artists who are taking their messages to new heights and reaching new audiences in the process.

In Cape Town, street art is breathing new life into once neglected streets. Tour guide Juma Mkwela tells the programme why sharing art is important to him, “By telling my story on the wall, everyone that walked past will be able to interact with that story. So, it is inspiring the community in many different ways.”

Alexandre Tilmans is the co-founder of Baz-Art, an organisation that transforms spaces through commissioned urban art. He speaks about the political nature of street art, “It usually happens at the moment where politics are very difficult and it’s a rough time for the citizen and country. It’s not just a subculture, it’s a medium of expression.”

Although many street artists operate illicitly, Tilmans and the team at Baz-Art are helping to change by-laws to get more permission for artists to paint in public spaces. This work is helping street art become an accepted way for people to engage with their communities. Street artist Rizah Potgieter discusses this acceptance, “Most graffiti artists they are kind of seen as like these underground superheroes, and their superpowers are art.”

In Johannesburg, there are fewer regulations to contend with and street art is flourishing. Artist DBongz talks about his work in the city, “I got to learn from small walls, so I guess the confidence part of me being out there and getting people’s criticism and just taking that and knowing that I can move with it and be better, I think that’s what really got me interested in it and got me stuck and loving it.”

Street art has become a key way for artists to deliver important social and political messages. Inside Africa sees examples of art depicting the dangers of junk food, the global climate crisis, and art depicting the end of slavery. Mkwela tells his tour groups about the motivation behind such pieces, “We create a lot of different art in these communities to tell their stories, to inspire, to educate and to make places look as beautiful as you can.”

Street artists are using their work to enrich and educate across South Africa. Tilmans sums up his feelings on the street art movement, “You can put whatever you want on that wall, it might be erased, it might stay there. But what you have to think at the end is that it’s just paint, if it creates a trouble, well, we can always paint it back.”

Inside Africa airs on CNN International tonight (Monday March 16) at 00h30 SAST and tomorrow (Tuesday March 17) at 10h30 SAST.