The Story Behind Cape Town's Newest Street Mural

Cape Town Travel
by Deva Lee Apr 29, 2014

On the southern-bound stretch of Cape Town’s De Waal Drive, there’s a wall with a story the locals all know. I remember driving past it on early mornings and dusky evenings on my way out of the city. For years the wall brandished a mural of a woman carrying a TV on her head; she was at once a labourer and goddess. She became a part of each commuter’s daily journey, and an icon of our city.

The mural questioned the future of cultural expression in a media-driven world. It was a collaborative effort by both local and international painters, one of whom is Faith47 — arguably Cape Town’s most famous street artist.

This year our city was granted a new icon, a new goddess to guide us home. Faith’s new mural, entitled The Harvest, has replaced the original, and may be an even more powerful statement about Cape Town and the area once known as District Six.

This historically charged neighbourhood was home to one of the most infamous forced removals in apartheid history. In 1966 it was zoned as a white-only area, and over 60,000 residents were evicted. Their houses were destroyed and they were required to take up residence in the Cape Flats — the name given to outlying areas of the city.

One such area is now called Khayelitsha, meaning “New Home” in isiXhosa, where 82% of the residents still live in corrugated-iron housing, despite the 20 years that have passed since the election of a new, democratic government. It’s known as one of the most dangerous areas in Cape Town, and in a recent survey three quarters of the residents said they felt crime was intolerably high. 87% of crime affects 19- to 35-year-olds, with crimes such as rape, child abuse, and murder being most common. While some residents returned to District Six in 2004, most are still living in areas such Khayelitsha, without adequate housing and in communities riddled with desperation and crime.

It seems appropriate, then, that the mural is aiming to combat crime in Khayelitsha. The Harvest is part of a project, Another Light Up, pulled together by organisations in the city: Design Indaba Trust, design company Thingking, and an NGO called VPUU (Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading).

The intention of Another Light Up is to install street lights on a stretch of road linking two water sources in Khayelitsha. The daily journey to fetch water will be made safer, as well-lit areas are proven to be more secure for residents. Another Light Up is raising the funds for 80 street lights in six months, and Faith’s mural is their greatest call to action. Every time enough money is raised to install a street light, a smaller symbolic light is added to the mural and the wall is lit up for the night.

In many ways, Faith47’s mural has also become an act of remembrance. For all us privileged suburbanites driving home, out of the city, the wall reminds us of those for whom home is already dark: without light, without hope. Our habitual act of ignoring and forgetting the darker parts of the city is interrupted, and for a moment, as Faith47 explains, the project is “connecting people and places that are otherwise very disconnected.”

Make a donation to #ANOTHERLIGHTUP to help fund lighting in Khayelitsha. All funds are managed by the nonprofit organisation Design Indaba Trust. Each individual who donates $500 or more will receive a limited edition, archival, signed print of the wall.

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