Several months ago a bunch of residents in Westdene, a quirky Joburg suburb just west of my own quirky suburb of Melville, decided to beautify their neighborhood with graffiti.
With help from some passionate graffiti champions, Westdene homeowners who were keen to have their exterior walls decorated were paired with graffiti artists keen to decorate said walls. Hence, the Westdene Graffiti Project was born.
There are several things I like about this project. First, it works perfectly in Johannesburg, a city in which at least 70% of residential homes are surrounded by walls. Second, the project is a win-win for both the residents and the artists: residents get beautiful works of art to decorate the outside of their homes, and artists get free walls to paint with full creative license (within reason, of course). Third, my boyfriend Ray is a graffiti artist and he’s painted a couple of walls for the project.
A Westdene Grafitti Tour
Saturday morning there was a graffiti walking tour in Westdene, organized by Past Experiences. I went along because I love graffiti and also because Ray — whose graffiti name is Bias — was the tour guide.
The tour lasted about three hours and we saw at least a dozen graffiti pieces, some of which were part of the Westdene Graffiti Project and some not. We also visited with homeowners involved in the project and participated in some other fun activities.
Over the course of the tour, Ray gave a brief explanation on the origins of graffiti, how and why he became a graffiti artist, and the difference between graffiti tags, throw-ups, and masterpieces (or “pieces” for short). He explained some of the techniques that graffiti artists use and demonstrated how to read graffiti lettering. But mainly he just showed us around the suburb and let us admire the pieces for ourselves.
The first Westdene Graffiti Project piece that we saw, painted by Dekor and Tower. The little girl’s name is Erin.
One of my favorite Westdene Graffiti Project pieces, by an artist called Veronika.
A garden-themed piece by Mars.
When we reached this piece by Dekor, Kathleen and Clint (the owners of the house) had set up a refreshment station with drinks and these awesome photo props. From left to right: Ray, lady I don’t know (sorry, lady!), Alice, and Grace.
Photos of this spectacular piece — by Dekor, Bener, Nausea, and Soak, depicting a crocodile eating a hippo eating a lion eating an anteater eating an ant — simply don’t do it justice. This is only about half of the wall.
And those were the highlights of the tour. I don’t think my post sufficiently communicates how much fun I had. I loved it, and from the looks of all the people crowding around Ray at the end of the tour and asking for pictures with him, I think everyone else did too.
But don’t just take it from me, as I’m obviously biased. I’m sure there will be more Westdene graffiti tours in the future, and Past Experiences has other recurring graffiti tours in several neighborhoods around the city. Keep an eye out on the Past Experiences Facebook page.