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South African Street Art: An Indescribable Message
by Athena Newton



South Africa: A country known for its natural settings, massive landmarks, and tumultuous history. In South Africa, lies Emfuleni: A township infamously known for its squalid living conditions and social despair. To merely describe the circumstances endured by Emfuleni’s inhabitants would be unjust; words are meaningless when blatantly faced with the destitution, struggle, and adversity these locals must tolerate. For no one can fully identify with these conditions unless they live it firsthand. Yet to consider their primary form of expression, their street art, invites the spectator to become aware of their reality.

More than a public marking, Emfuleni street art profoundly embodies the misery, unrest, and oppression continuously faced by South Africans today. Yet, on the flip side, these public markings beautifully communicate hope for the future; a longing for the ideal.  They embody a rare combination of abhorrence and optimism; of disparity and power. The magnitude of expression and striking use of color act as a reminder of the social and political differences they face in a society built on blatant distinction.

Much like the images displayed above, the walls invite many elements of visual technique. From Bansky inspired stencils, to tribe warrior figures, the art prompts a story overflowed with imagination and fervor. The crude and [at times] ferociously bright use of color suggests anger and strain, provoking a sense of awe and trepidation. A South African street artist, who wishes to remain anonymous, passionately describes the inspiration behind his work:

    It is to be trapped…To be rejected. Why else do I have motivation? We come as a whole to create a message that we are still alive; there is no escape…That’s it; serious. What else, you know? It’s that simple…It is a trap.

Trapped: Escape: Serious. What more is there to say?

For him and perhaps many other artists, the experience is cathartic. It ignites a release of tension and feelings of rejection whilst reflecting the interests of the oppressed in the most beautiful way imaginable.

These images paint a story of a tale that can only told by those who live it.  The street art captivates as it evokes; luring us to step into a world too powerful for words.

--Athena Newton

(Images courtesy of Athena Newton)


Posted by Athena Newton on 6/21/09 | tags: graffiti/street-art

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Sportsman_of_the_year sad state of affairs
How is it that my people still continue to live in these squallor conditions when in reality they come from a portion of this land which I can only describe as paradise. during the holidays they go home to paradise. It is paradise in more than one sense of the meaning. The land is royal land, so there is no rates and taxes in the majority of these villiages. The electrified villiages are paid for by the residents. There is no burglar proofing and high walls. In the old days these areas were called homelands. Made up of thousands of villiages and they still exist today. There is no crime in these lands of paradise. There is wide open spaces. One wakes up to beautiful fresh air and gorgeous sunrises. The cake of our land is very big and yet everyone chooses to flock to the cherry on top. This is why there is congestion and so called poor conditions. The infrastructure of all the cities in SA was not made for the huge influx of people which now outways the producing of new up to date infrastructure. I think there is a tendency by the people to use this lack of public services to their benefit by crying wolf, when it is really their own doing. What do you think would happen if one would spread all the major institutions across the South African countryside? The congestion would relax. We would have far better roads. we would not have to live in pigeon box town houses costing a cool R1m. The advantages are endless. Back in the homelands, there is harmony and peace and I would suggest these destinations as a cheap holiday getaway. With the peace and harmony there is now deterioration of the villiages as they are left empty by people looking for a pot of gold in the cities. I write this because I travel the poorest province, the Eastern Cape, and I see these things. The solutions to our problems is in the countryside. Please visit my web site at
Img_5506 Aluta Continua!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's a quite telling story. Our past makes our present. I doubt if there's any better way for this guys to say this! Kudos fellas!!

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