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John Maytham on Woodstock street art: "Explosion of colour, shape and beauty"

25 January 2022 5:23 PM
Tags:
Woodstock
Cape Town Tourism
John Maytham
Albert Road
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John Maytham on woodstock: "It’s an explosion of colour and shape and beauty"
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Cape Town Tourism invited CapeTalk's Afternoon Drive host John Maytham to do a walking tour of the street art of Woodstock.

I berated myself as I made my way back to my car on Albert Road in Woodstock. In the way that one does when one finally visits a destination or has an experience, that gives one enormous pleasure and it’s a destination or experience that has been freely available for years.

I interviewed tour guide Shaheed Haroun about the Woodstock Street Art Walking Tour several years ago. I ended the interview confident that I’d heard about something well worth doing, and then, in the way that many Cape Town residents do when it comes to things to do and see in their own backyard, I filed it away and promptly forgot about it.

Now I was walking back to my car after ninety minutes in the company of the same Shaheed Haroun, and it had been ninety of the most fascinating minutes I’ve spent in a long time. Thank you Cape Town Tourism for jogging my memory and getting me onto the tour.

The Street Art Walking Tour is one of several art-related tours, walking and cycling, offered by Juma Art Tours in and around Woodstock, Langa and Khayelitsha - there’s a Bree Street experience undergoing final curation before being made available to tourists in February.

We started off at the Woodstock Exchange, a space that has been transformed from vacant and derelict to populated and buzzing with a range of businesses, from retail to restaurant to IT start-up to media and more. Probably more tattoos per square centimetre of flesh than anywhere else in Cape Town. Scattered through the various floors are legacy murals, kept by the developers, adding spice, colour and interest to the space. Then it’s next door to Side Street Studios, which houses more murals and 36 studios and shops, including an artisanal bakery and Sorbetiere – are there better ice creams in Cape Town than this? – and The Cooksister shop where you can buy bacon jam – a much better taste than you might think.

Then onto the streets of Lower Woodstock, south of Albert Road, where there is an unexpected treasure house of street art. Shaheed is a perfect guide to the history, meaning and context of what we see. I learn that a key difference between murals and graffiti is that the latter is a secret language (it’s like crypto-currency, says Shaheed), and the former is one of open access. I am amazed at the range of nationalities of the artists who use these brick walls as their canvases. India, Argentina, Belgium, Australia, Canada, France, Finland, Israel, England. And, of course, locals.

It’s an explosion of colour and shape and beauty and meaning, all expertly translated by our witty guide, who knows these streets and their history like the back of his hands. He was born here and still lives here, and invites his walkers into his home at the end of the tour to enjoy cold drinks and tea and exquisitely tasty daltjies, made by his own skilled hand. (He also offers a Cape Malay cooking experience in his home, as well as a vintage shopping tour)

I am impressed that Shaheed does not sugar-coat the violent history of the area and that it is still a place where gangsters live and ‘work’ and, occasionally, kill. This is the area where the Staggie brothers held court, and where Rashaad was beaten and burnt to death. A walk through these streets is also an opportunity to confront and think about gentrification, and many of the thoughts are discomfiting. Here is an empty lot surrounded by corrugated iron sheeting.

Not so long ago it was a place that held seven cottages and seven families, including a woman who was born in one of the cottages and was 97 years old when she had to move out after developers bought the lot. In the background, you can see the penthouses at the top of an apartment block, penthouses that cost about R5 million to buy. The sort of apartment that might arise from the history-laden dust behind the corrugated sentries.

In the Spotlight this week on CapeTalk is Cape Town Tourism’s Ubuntu Membership. This is a platform where businesses in the Tourism industry can sign up for free and enjoy the perks that come with being a member of Ubuntu. The advantages range from being invited to networking events to free marketing and PR on Cape Town Tourism’s website. Click here to get your Ubuntu Membership and sign up today. Brought to you by Cape Town Tourism.




25 January 2022 5:23 PM
Tags:
Woodstock
Cape Town Tourism
John Maytham
Albert Road
Sponsored Content
John Maytham on woodstock: "It’s an explosion of colour and shape and beauty"
Juma Art Tours

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