Yesterday on Women’s Day I went on a Graffiti tour in the Maboneng, Jeppestown and Troyville suburbs of Johannesburg with some of my friends. It was led by a guide from “Past Experiences” – a company that organizes these kinds of tours and a local graffiti artist named George AKA Mars.
The history of modern graffiti is rather recent starting in the 1960’s in the USA by someone writing his name on public surfaces. But the need to imprint ourselves on things goes back even further – just think of the cavemen and their drawings.
A few things that I’ve learnt from the tour: not all graffiti is illegal. Some graffiti artists ask the owner’s permission first before they paint on the wall. Illegal graffiti is usually “tagging” where someone just put their name on a wall without the owner’s permission. These are mostly selfish acts. But even the most well respected graffiti artists will still throw in an illegal “tag” here and there. That is how most of them started out anyway.
Another surprising thing I’ve learnt is that there are a lot of graffiti artists from overseas that come to South Africa for the mere purpose to put their graffiti on a wall. On the tour they showed us a whole building done by a graffiti artist from Spain (I don’t know the name because I didn’t have a notebook with me and most what I’m writing here is from memory).
Most of the graffiti are done through free styling, but sometimes they will use each others input or sources. They showed us one done by Aiko: a Japanese female graffiti artist that loves to use stencils in her work.
Another local graffiti artist: Rasty
Every graffiti artist have their own motive: doing it for the sake of art, politics, some see it as their careers, for others it’s just a hobby.
There are different categories of graffiti: legal vs illegal, creation vs destruction, street art, tagging, etc.
There is also a code of conduct or graffiti ethics between different artists. It is seen as disrespectful when you paint or tag over another artist’s work. Some of them will even become cross if you paint next to theirs and touch it in any way.
If you look closely you’ll see a Kong character on the above picture – that was not part of the original painting.
Some more awesome pics:
I can’t for the life of me remember who painted these characters though (see above)
Sadly not all will last forever. The following graffiti wall is already 6 years old. Eventually the paint will fade and crumble away.