What’s Your Art-Genda?

Hi Everyone! It’s Nathan, Ty, and Alyssa!

We started our day later than usual and got ready pretty quickly to begin our day in the city. Our first destination was Maboneng a neighborhood located within Johannesburg. Our focus of the stop was a market street that was lined on both sides with artistic murals and crafts. The location is a very up and coming area full of energy and style. The highlight was the many local artists that displayed their works for sale. They included canvas paintings, shirt printings, and soapstone carvings. We met very dedicated and talented artists including Snowchino and Sweet Potato, they were both willing to tell us their stories and the motivation behind their work. The theme of their art was political in nature, focusing on figures like Steve Biko, Winnie and Nelson Mandela, and Robert Sobukwe. The art did not just pertain to the canvases they were selling, additionally there were many figures and messages stenciled onto the walls of the buildings. Some of these figures were North American and Latin American such as Che Guevara, Louis Armstrong, Michael Jackson, Fidel Castro and many many more. All of these figures were being represented through stenciled graffiti which goes to show that all art forms can be used to relate to a wider audience. While we were there we took advantage of the opportunity to load up on crafts and gifts for loved ones as this is our last day in Johannesburg.

We then left Maboneng to meet Jo, our guide or the day. She took us on a graffiti tour around her hometown. She brought us around a very lively and hipster college community, which has been blessed with beautiful murals and works of graffiti. She passionately explained to us of the history of the art form as a whole and as it specifically relates to Jo’burg. She introduced us to the graffiti art of  of the Mars, Love, and Baez. Some of the artists were South African and some were from other countries, including the United States. The beautifully large murals were done by some of these local artists through city funded projects. These allowed all of the public to enjoy art that related to their everyday life and culture. Jo made a special point to say the Jo’burg police are very lackadaisical in enforcing the vandalism laws that are in the city.

We continued our tour with Jo to the Constitution Hill complex. The complex  featured the old fort, the black and white separated prisons, the women’s prison, and the Constitutional Court. From our perch on the hill we could see much of the city skyline. The neighborhood was surrounded by low income housing. This housing was much needed in order revitalize the city in the face of the economic slowdown of the 1980’s. Also in the 1980’s the prison itself closed after many decades of operation. Within the prison, in a part called Section 4, many black and colored political activists were held to serve out their criminal sentences or their time for  fighting against apartheid. Among the notable captives housed in section 4 were Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and some of the students involved in the Soweto riots. For many of us, seeing the filthy toilet and food facilities and viewing inmate stories as well as the many chambers of solitary confinement really affected us. Jo, our guide, showed us some graffiti etched into the isolation cell doors. She focused on these etchings for her master’s degree. While looking through the isolation cells it was very powerful as many prisoners would etch their names, the date, a message, and political slogans on their cells.

We’re ending the day with a South African  brai (barbecue)  hosted by Derrek (our driver) and Thulani (our program facilitator)! We have only two days left here in South Africa and it is definitely bittersweet to think of our trip coming to an end!

Shout out to my family, mom, dad, Corinne, and Thomas and all the friends back in Vermont. Love Nathan!

Oi Mae, Pai, e Justin! I’m still having a blast and cant wait to finally spend some time at home with you guys, te quero!

Quick shout out to – my mom, dad, doggos, Andrew, Walker, and all my loved ones back in the States! Miss and love you all! See you soon !


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