A traffic-jammed and grey strip of Louis Botha Avenue has received a welcome artistic injection, the largest street art mural in the city. Phumlani S Langa speaks to two artists involved in creating it.
Those who travel down Joburg’s Louis Botha Avenue may have noticed a new mural on the side of this busy main vein of the city.
The S-Bend mural near Pine Road showcases a large-scale collaboration of graffiti and street artists which has given an unsightly wall a new look.
The group behind it is The Trinity Sessions, a production house that’s put its weight behind driving the culture of art forward in Joburg since 2001.
A long list of celebrated wielders of the spray can was selected for the project.
Among them are the likes of Breeze Yoko, Dreda, Eksê, Mein, Page 33, Zesta, Anser and Sandile Radebe who all grace the wall with their individual strokes and varying degrees of can control.
As it stands, the mural is the largest in the city, dwarfing pedestrians as they make their way down this busy road.
I first spotted artists working on the wall a few weeks back and if I’m being honest there are sections that I’m not feeling all that much.
Fortunately those panels are saved by the work of more skilled spray can practitioners. Veteran graffiti artist Eksê agreed to speak with us about the project.
“I did the Ndebele images of a few ladies. They’re very colourful and I draw on the history of the Ndebele being accepted as refugees by the Sotho people in Transvaal.”
He loves the originality of this culture’s style and wanted to emphasise that.
Both Cape Town and Joburg have certain by-laws that restrict graffiti. I ask Eksê what he thinks about this.
“Man, Helen Zille [former Western Cape premier] assumed this art form has hidden messages about her and people like her,” he jokes.
He feels politicians took offence and took steps to sideline this art form, which Eksê says does not damage the city.
Street artist Radebe was also drafted to this illustrious list of artists for the project.
“The art form is important because it’s located in public spaces. The public nature of graffiti works renders art accessible to many people. It’s a good way of creating awareness about visual art in a country that does not have a big culture of visiting galleries,” he said.
This brother views the artists’ efforts with this mural as a creative civic duty.
“I translated my rendition of amabheqe [Zulu bead work] sculptures to mural pieces.
This is a response to the indigenous knowledge systems that constitute the history of the ‘old Pretoria road’, commonly known as Louis Botha [Avenue]. It was enjoyable working with other writers, exchanging techniques and learning.
The location is prone to some criminal activities.”
Perhaps this epic splash of pressurised paint might alleviate the tensions on this strip, which is notorious for traffic congestion.
So next time you’re cruising down Louis Botha and hit a jam or a road block, take a glance at the S-Bend mural. Hopefully, that’ll help keep you mellow.