International Public Art Festival (Cape Town): collaboration, creativity and community

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The third International Public Art Festival (IPAF), organised by the NPO Baz-Art1, took place in February in Salt River2, Cape Town.

The theme for 2019, namely “Generation next: educate, collaborate, empower”, is beautifully portrayed by local and international artists (from countries such as Brazil, Spain and Belgium).

Artwork by Aleksandro Reis from Brazil

Aleksandro Reis (middle)

Part of the theme, to educate via visual media, refers to raising awareness/engaging/reflecting, thereby “promot[ing] knowledge as a pathway to finding solutions”.

The collaboration aspect of the theme relates to “proactive engagement” and “creative dialogue” between “individuals, communities and countries”.

Empowerment refers to “the power of … individual agency in improving their communities and our shared environment”:

The artworks that emerge from our festival will serve to inspire reflection on the type of world we wish to leave for successive generations, and, most importantly, motivate positive individual actions that will help to create a better future for all.

The artworks3 ‒ depicting themes such as environmental issues, the celebration of diverse local cultures, and human contact in a digital world ‒ are a mix of mural art and classic spray can art.

“Kaapse Klopse” is a joint project by two South African artists, Page33 and Zesta, and two Belgian artists, Linus Haertjens and Spear. This mural, according to the IPAF website, paints “a multifaceted story, depicting actual residents – in a humorous light – dealing with the 2018 Cape Town water crisis … In the mural, all the instruments are replaced with water-storing equipment, such as bottles or buckets.” The depiction of the flamingo is ironic, given that these animals are found in areas with water.

Translation: “With a dry or a wet mouth, we’ll have a good laugh.”

The IPAF website highlights the importance of education, collaboration, community empowerment and creativity:

We strongly believe that educating present and future generations, promoting dialogue and collaboration, and empowering individuals and communities through public art can help promote positive change and attitudes.

Walking around Salt River

The Moegammadiyah Masjid (mosque) in Tennyson Street

The festival’s passion for and dedication to empowerment and agency is also illustrated by the following:

  • Possible work opportunities are made available to local artists after the festival. According to Alexandre Tilmans, co-founder of the Baz-Art NPO, “We promise [participating artists] that we will pitch some of their work to some organisations – or even corporate clients – so that they will be able to make a living/better living out of their art.”
  •  The festival tour started at the Beth Uriel youth centre, dedicated to the empowerment of the next generation.

“Public art is for the public to create discussion and awareness, and to educate each other.” – Alexandre Tilmans

Beth Uriel youth centre

Athlone-based artists Shaheen Soni and Tasneem Chilwan-Soni create mostly indoor artworks. This artwork – using traditional styles of Arabic calligraphy and different aspects of Islamic art – is their first in a public space. It is also the festival’s first Islamic art mural. The artwork consists of a depiction of mihrab, found throughout the Muslim world. Knowledge in and of itself, and the importance of acquiring knowledge, is portrayed by a verse from the holy Koran, meaning “read”. Shaheen stated that the work is a modern style of abstract Islamic art, mixing contemporary with some of the traditional. Cape Town, as a multicultural city, is reflected in the Middle Eastern and African design.

The completed design:

Shaheen Soni

South African Cape pangolin/anteater mural by Belgian artist Roa. According to the IPAF website, “Roa is renowned for his awe-inspiring black-and-white paintings of wildlife. His signature style often features creatures, in black and white, that are subject to extinction or exploitation, are endangered or are native to the location where the mural is found.” The pangolin is a nearly-extinct, trafficked and exploited mammal. Its skin, brown scales and meat are misused as fashion accessories, as a meat delicacy and as an aphrodisiac.

Artwork with climate change theme by Zola Tsotetsi

Zola Tsotetsi

According to Alexandre Tilmans, Johannesburg-based artist Justin Nomad’s artwork reflects the changing nature of education: it needs to adapt in a digital world. Is the iPad better than the book, or the other way round?

German artist Bona’s artwork emphasises the importance of listening to and learning from each other, as well as “diversity and being together. Together, we are more.”

Artwork by American artist Ibrahim Baaith

Artwork by South African artist Grant Jurius

The artwork of Aïda Gómez, from Spain, is interactive: people from the neighbourhood can place their painted fingerprint on the wall; our fingerprints symbolise human contact.

This mural by South African artist Jack Fox was created in honour of the Capetonian fireman. On the depicted firefighter’s helmet is the mandarin symbol for water.

Salt River street art




1 Baz-Art focuses on, for example, urban/street art, social inclusion, art creation/production and education, events, content marketing and the transformation/development of communities.

2 Salt River is next to Woodstock and Observatory. Most of the residents of this Capetonian suburb have Cape Malay roots. Historically, this diverse, working-class suburb was the city’s industrial hub (established in the 1860s via the Woodstock/Salt River railway lines). Salt River was initially a fishing hamlet enclosed by farms.

3 At the time of the tour, the artworks were still in progress. Some of the photographed artworks on our route were completed during the 2017 and 2018 festivals.

Buro: MvH
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