Street Art Animates Johannesburg’s Gritty Streets

Street Art Animates Johannesburg's Gritty Streets

A cherry picker takes a man to the street next to a wall that surrounds an empty lot in central Johannesburg.

He's not cutting power lines, he's painting a billboard-sized canvas of four contemporary South African musicians.

Known as Dibongz, the artist is at the forefront of a growing movement to use Johannesburg's fort to create murals that have helped revitalize the abandoned city centre.

"(The city) was boring, ordinary and honest," said the 32-year-old.

"But because of the color, because of those bright walls, people see it as a place where they're starting to come in."

What used to be a pastime for artists is increasingly becoming a business, with real estate companies commissioning artworks to decorate their buildings.

In some areas, the walls at each corner are painted in bright colors.

In the year In the 1990s, downtown Johannesburg fell into decline and neglect.

In the year In 1994, the unsanctioned assault on democracy in the 1980s saw the displacement of white-owned businesses to high-walled suburbs.

Whole blocks were empty. The hotels simply closed their doors without even selling the contents of the auction.

In the early 2000s, real estate entrepreneurs started experimenting again.

Urban Properties, a real estate company, bought several abandoned office towers into affordable housing.

Tucked into an old plastered wall facing the street, the company commissioned South African artist Hanneli Coetzee to bring it back to life.

“Cities are cold, concrete spaces with very clear grids. Art can bring a gentle touch or a moment of thought you might not expect.

"This is the magic of public art for me. It creates meaning for a certain city through the voices of artists."

He created a 166 square meter portrait of a woman with over 2,000 plates, bowls and bowls.

The woman's haircut inspired by modern South African women are adapting traditional hairstyles in a new way.

Developer Adam Levy donated the 10-story building to American artist Shepard Fairey for his Barack Obama painting "Hope."

An open wall overlooking the city became a portrait of Nelson Mandela.

According to Levy, art decorations serve as a conscious signal to visitors that one cares about the environment.

"Now it's very clear that there's a system behind all of this that's responsible for what's going on. And I think people can open up about that," Levy said.

"They feel comfortable and safe. They feel cared for and appreciated."

Over the past decade, the industry has seen brands commission works for advertising purposes, and Heineken South Africa marketing manager Marcel Swain recently held a street art competition.

According to him, graffiti artists can charge thousands of rand for a job.

Debongz has become one of Johannesburg's most popular street performers.

His works became a visual symbol of the city and inspired a new wave.

Dbongze's latest wallpaper was commissioned by Apple Music to feature singer Simphiwe Dana, folk guitarist Bangziwe Mabandala, jazz musician Mandisi Diantis and pianist Nobuhle.

The musicians' faces are painted in black and white, but their clothes and jewelry stand out in bright colors against a green background inspired by traditional textiles.

The work tells the story of a series of portraits of dead musicians on giant concrete pillars that support a double-decker highway that runs through Newtown's cultural district.

Born in a small town on the western edge of the city, the artist is known for his work in slums, sometimes painting slum children on large murals.

"People are starting to believe in themselves and see themselves in the bigger world, beyond what happens in their lives," he said.

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Talking about care Mfo Matsipa

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