The Salt River Street Art Tour

By Penny Grimbeek

The Salt River Street Art Tour was initiated in 2017 as the first of the annual International Public Arts Festivals (IPAF), organized by Baz-Art, an NGO dedicated to community building, social transformation and cohesion through art.

As I wander the streets of Salt River today, I feel the pride of a community that has found its own voice and the expression of its heritage and ideals through new street art works commissioned by the Salt River Heritage Society. There’s a work that celebrates Desiree Ellis, who grew up in Salt River. She’s the amazingly successful coach and former captain of South Africa’s women’s football team.

Another mural has the portraits of local personalities who’ve made a significant contribution to justice in our country. There’s a new work that is a memorial to the Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while reporting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and a mural that has become very important to the community as a timeline of that conflict and a chronicle of Human Rights activists around the world.

But, as Picasso so aptly said, we need art to wash away from the soul “the dust of everyday life”. Salt River has many examples of street art that just fill me with joy and awe – murals of a noble Cape Leopard, and of a giant African penguin; a thought-provoking work full of fantastical creatures, storm clouds and water; an extraordinary portrait of Siya Kolisi;

a long mural that remembers the 2018 water crisis in Cape Town; the spectacular scale of the long-limbed dreadlocks man, and so many more works that charm, surprise and delight.

As the interest in street art grows internationally, I’ve been proud to share the history of Salt River, and its art and artists with Jutta Lemcke, the well-known travel journalist, and many other interested and interesting visitors from home and abroad. 

A Street Art Walking tour of Salt River is an introduction to a suburb with a distinctive history and culture, where the walls have been decorated with dozens of fascinating works of art by extraordinarily talented local and international street artists.

It is a truly enriching experience.