International Public Art Festival 2023

By Penny Grimbeek & Craig Barrowman

This year the 7th annual International Public Art Festival had its hub in the Company’s Garden. Baz-Art expanded the idea of public art from murals, to include art installations and performance art. The theme of this year’s festival was “What If?” It featured eight exciting art installations / performance pieces in the garden and seven new street art works in the streets of the CBD.

Gijs Vanhee of Mechelen in Belgium produced his first ever sculpture in the Company’s Garden. Gijs often draws large-scale monochrome murals which always feature his characteristic “species” of human bodies with bird heads. As on this sculpture, where the creature sits nonchalantly fishing on a sinking boat, Gijs’ creatures are often found looking quite comfortable, living in the moment, in unusual or uncomfortable situations. Gijs’ message is that although we humans can’t fly, our imaginations can. Our minds are free even if our bodies are not.

The other works in the garden:

The seven plastic penguins perched on a platform high above the pond were the work of William Sweetlove of Ghent in Belgium. The penguins represent the seven seas and each carries a water bottle strapped to his back. William’s message is, “What if the consequences of climate change are so dire that sea levels rise so high that penguins have no place to nest and clean drinking water becomes a scarce resource?”

South African social impact consultant and founder of the organization, LivCurious, Olivia Krok, created a participation piece, called “Unjustified Violence”, which encouraged the public to write a meaningful reaction to gender-based violence to create awareness and activism around this scourge in our society. These “postcards” were pegged to washing lines. Some were heartbreaking to read.

Photo credit Cole Reizenberg

Under an impressive Outeniqua yellowwood tree, was a sculpture by the amazing young Rwandan, (now resident in South Africa) called Nyambo Masa Mara. The colourful sculpture made of fibre glass, fabric and resin symbolized the artist’s connection to his African ancestry and spirituality, including the Rwandan royal cow, or “nyambo” with its very long horns. The artist, Nyambo’s hair is fashioned as two long horns! His fabric and fashion brand, Masa Mara, produces beautiful fabrics and extraordinary clothing designs.

Photo credit: Craig Barrowman

Madrid-based artist, Fernando Sanchez Castillo, created a meaningful installation called “Made in China” which consisted of 5,000 little plastic figures of the unidentified, brave young student protester, known as the Tank Man, who stopped a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during the pro-democracy riots in 1989. It is believed that 5,000 protesters lost their lives during the Chinese government’s crackdown. As this history is totally censored, Chinese citizens know nothing of it at all. The artist invited viewers to write of their experience and understanding of freedom and democracy, or of their own unsung hero, to be pinned on a board. In return, they could take home one of the little Tank Man figures as a reminder of the heroism of freedom activists and our own privilege of freedom. Photos credits: Craig Barrowman

Cape Town based South African artist Michael Beckurts’ installation was an enlargement of one of his beautiful cityscapes, drawn with charcoal, watercolour and coffee, presently on exhibition in the Open Wine Bar in Wale Street. The magic of technology, through the augmented reality of the Artivive app, animated this amazing work. It was quite fantastic and incredible to witness!

Photo credit: Penny Grimbeek

South Africa’s famous singer-songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist, Msaki, created a performance piece for the opening of the Festival.

South African artist Marlene Steyn’s large-scale whimsical, arched sculpture of a woman without a torso was a magnet for children. Mark Jeneker was the overseer of the children’s interpretation in clay of Marlene’s piece.

Photo credit Susanne Schubert

The eight installations in the Company’s Gardens were a fleeting glimpse and insight into the minds and creativity of some brilliant artists. For a short time, they stretched our minds and enriched our lives.

The seven murals created around Cape Town during IPAF 2023, have added to the charm of our art-friendly City, and will be there forever, or as long as the elements permit. Here’s what you will find!

Pixel Monster from Gqeberha / Port Elizabeth, South Africa, works fast to produce cute images of “pixel ladies”: African women’s faces in a pixellated style evoking old-school computer graphics. He produced one such image on Longmarket Street next to Adderley Street (close to some other larger existing murals). The images in his online gallery are from all over the world, besides just a few he was given permission to paint in his home town, and scrolling through the gallery is reminiscent of reading a travel blog.

South African artist Pixel Monster from Gqeberha / Port Elizabeth, corner of Adderley & Longmarket Streets.

At 60 Corporation Street, best seen from Spin Street looking towards Devil’s Peak, is a big, bright new collaboration mural commissioned by Baz-Art, designed by them in collaboration with Muti Design Studio and painted by South African artists Dekor1 (aka Nicholas Kerr) from Jo’burg and Mernette Swartz from Cape Town. They both participated in a similar 5 artist collaboration in IPAF 2022, on the corner of Strand and Loop Streets, in an alcove facing Table Mountain. Each also has some compelling murals in Salt River (two by Dekor1 in Kremer Road and one by Mernette in Burns Road), among others in Cape Town.

South African artists Dekor1 (aka Nicholas Kerr) from Joburg & Mernette Swartz from CT (2nd & 3rd) painted this mural at the corner of Spin & Plein Streets, commissioned by Baz-Art and designed by them in collaboration with Muti Design Studio.

Just around the corner, at 22 Barrack Street, close to the corner of Plein Street, Aches from Ireland painted a striking mural of a local woman he met trading on the Grand Parade market. Aches specialises in large scale murals and graffiti, and in Cape Town he used his trademark style of doing a portrait with the same subject’s face repeated, in overlapping combinations of the primary colours of red, blue and green, and the primary pigment colours of magenta, cyan and yellow, drawing on additive and subtractive colour theories. He started drawing and painting at a young age and started doing graffiti at 15. Many of his works come with a social message. Digital software has influenced his style, resulting in a graphic modern aesthetic. He is equally at home painting murals as he is in the studio.

Photo credit: Cole Reizenberg

Our guided walks to explore the new art works in progress took us past the piece of the Berlin Wall mounted in Church Street, itself covered in graffiti on the side which used to face west. This relic was gifted to Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 1996 visit to Germany to promote trade with and investment in South Africa in the post apartheid era. Significantly, after the wall fell on 9 November 1989, it took almost exactly 3 months until Nelson Mandela was freed on 11 February 1990, both events part of the wave of democratic movements sweeping across large parts of the world, and with the fall of communism, the window of opportunity opened in South Africa for real reform to finally proceed.

Walking along Wale Street towards the BoKaap, especially approaching the corner of Bree Street, one gets a view of the beautiful mural above Open Wine (wine shop and bar) painted by German artist Case McClaim (aka Andreas von Chrzanowski) during IPAF 2022, depicting a boy on a bicycle. Michael Beckurts, who recreated this very same streetscape on fabric in the Company’s Garden, and has already taken part in IPAF in previous years, currently has an exhibition inside Open Wine.

Walking upwards along Bree Street, one passes the site on the right, where the Fynbos building will soon be taking shape, featuring a vertical wall of plants. Currently still a pile of rubble from a recently demolished building, it was here that the owner of the property invited artists to come and paint the walls, inside and out, a year or two before the demolition was due. The pile of rubble reminds us of the ephemeral nature of street art, and the spirit of celebrating its beauty today, because it could be gone tomorrow!

On the corner of Pepper and New Church Streets, on the Wild Olive Apothecary building, is the monochrome cape sugar bird so beautifully done by Jack Mantis (Cape Town graffiti artist and musician).

Cape sugar bird mural on the Wild Olive building, corner of Pepper & New Church Streets, by South African artist & musician Jack Mantis from CT. Part of IPAF 2023 walking route but not from any IPAF event.

Just around the corner, in a courtyard behind the Wild Olive building, Ralarno Coutts from Jo’burg created a mural using the ingenious technique of reverse graffiti. This involved using a high pressure water jet to blast away the outer layer of the dirty old moss-covered surface (instead of ADDING a layer of paint!) It was fascinating watching him work, and observing the accuracy with which he removed the surface from within the lines he had sketched with a marker, given that anything that he “did” couldn’t be undone! And what a perfect old wall he had as his canvas! Ralarno also did a mural during IPAF 2021 in Tennyson Street, Salt River, signed as Dolf. Photo credit Penny Grimbeek

Down in Bree Street, in the narrow little Orphan Lane squeezed between Sea Breeze restaurant and the Pot Plant Club, two more murals were created, facing and complementing each other.

On the left, Von Mash, a South African artist from Jo’burg, created a unique, striking art piece. His work is heavily influenced by African mysticism and focuses on self acceptance, identity and the struggles Africans have to deal with, transforming what are often perceived as the burdens of that identity into virtues to be owned and celebrated. He often uses a collage of images, textures and distorted colours and shapes in his “Afri-delic” style. This bold new piece bears out his influence by futurism and surrealism, and the imaginative and futuristic view of Africa rarely seen but which he holds so dear.

Photo credit Cole Reizenberg

On the right, Richie Madyira, a Zimbabwean artist based in CT, did a piece depicting an immigrant couple buying clothes in Cape Town. Richie is a figurative artist who uses vibrant colours and visual storytelling to address issues like the hardships of life, living conditions in poor communities, and specifically the immigrant experience, based on his own experience. He aims to create happiness and harmony, giving hope, encouraging people to be confident and courageous, while using colours that don’t represent the real world.

Photo credit Penny Grimbeek

At the top end of Bree Street, across the road from the Fire & Ice Hotel, and also down Victoria Street to Jamieson Street, are a set of murals painted during IPAF 2022 which have now been brought to new life by the augmented reality app Artivive which can be downloaded onto a cell phone. Looking at them through the app, a lively, quirky animation is activated! This was facilitated by Baz-Art.

At 56 Orange Street, on the corner of Dorman St, JonOne (aka John Andrew Perello) from the USA painted a mural with his graffiti signature repeated in the colours of the SA flag. JonOne was born in NYC in 1963, raised in Harlem, and started tagging his name on city streets at 17 but quickly established a name for himself with abstract works influenced by movement, colour and the energy of the city. He relocated to Paris in 1987 and is now considered one of the most famous graffiti artists in the world. He mainly works in oil on canvas, reflecting the culture of freestyle street art. His abstract style has distinguished him from most other graffiti artists working in more figurative styles.

American artist JonOne from NYC on cherry picker crane, on the corner of Orange & Dorman Streets. Photo by artist’s gallery representative.

What a joy to see another set of street art works gracing the walls and buildings of our city, and to once again have memories of meeting the artists and learning their stories!