Masiphumelele, Western Cape, South Africa
Posted April 2nd, 2017
And so we look not at things seen, but to things unseen; for things seen are temporary, but things unseen are eternal.
Huge thanks to Jono Morgan for his tireless help with this piece today. Thanks to the residents of Masi who were so encouraging – sharing their comments and questions and rhetoric… Thanks Christine for your wall and thanks Sophia for these great shots of the work. Most thanks God for inspiring the work of my hands.
Main Road, Masiphumelele
Posted April 2nd, 2017
This is written on the home of Mashiah who lives in Epworth, Harare. In front of this wall she will plant her maize. Last year her crops were so bountiful that after using up all her storage room, there was enough left over to give kg bags out to the whole local community where she lives.
Posted November 26th, 2016
Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday and in South Africa Madiba has asked us to volunteer our time doing something for the community. I went with some friends to Blikkiesdorp (“Tin Can Town”) which is a township, or slum about 30 minutes from Cape Town.
When I arrived I was immediately drawn towards a small wooden wall that ran along the length of a shack facing the central square. This turned out to be the home of Chevon and Lionel Kleansmith; Chevon was standing there with her infant daughter and invited me inside to sit in the shade and chat. Her limited English only emphasized the wisdom of her worldview as she answered my questions about her values. (“Listening is worth more”). She asked me why I made street art and when I mentioned hope and dignity she lit up immediately saying that this was the name of the 1-month old in her arms: Hope.
At that moment her sister-in-law and mother-in-law strode through the doorway, having driven up in their own car clad in designer handbags and sunglasses. We were introduced and then I continued the conversation asking Chevon why she had named her daughter Hope. Her sister-in-law Melody interrupted and stated that they were upset by Chevon’s pregnancy because the family lived in such poverty. “It’s a crime to bring another life into this place.” Her English was impeccable. Cybil, the mother-in-law silently nodded her agreement to all of this. Chevon was deeply humiliated by the disappointment in her that these two so forthrightly expressed to me – a guest in her home. Eventually these two left and I told Chevon that I felt God had given me a blessing for her. She agreed to let me paint the words.
Her older children and many others helped me complete the piece. One very small girl about 2 years old stroked my hair as I knelt, evidently doing her best to soothe me. Henry (pictured here) was the biggest help shaking cans and holding stencils and doing quite a bit of dancing. As we were finishing up, Melody returned and got out of the car. Chevon was inside and Melody just stood there staring at the piece with her mouth sort of scrunched up to the side. For about three full minutes she stared. With no small resolution in her step she approached me and said, “I know that you wrote this for Chevon, but you know – God has written it to me. I haven’t been completely honest with you or my family. Truthfully, when I see that my brother is blessed with children, I am shaken by envy. It is for this reason that I ignore Hope.” She turned around and went inside.
When it came time to leave I went inside and said goodbye to everyone. Chevon and Melody both followed me to the door covered in small children, laughing and teasing me and saying farewell.
Posted July 18th, 2016
Enkanini township is struggling with the local government to get electricity out to their location. I have had long chats with the residents about this and we all hold out hope for change. Thanks heaps to my Mom and Dad for helping out – and Mariah for tackling all the kids…
Posted April 18th, 2015
Last week we went back to Masiphumelele to paint on some of the newly built shacks. You can see that many of these new homes are made from recycled pieces of burnt zinc that barely survived the fires. My good friend Craig Johns is making a short film of the project and has taken some of these photographs above as well. As we were finishing up for the day a woman passed and said to us, “These birds I see them. These birds they will bring us peace.”
Posted May 20th, 2014
My first major mural (“with you I am well pleased”) has officially been removed by the city. I had permissions from the owner of the wall, but apparently this was overruled. The buff paint is so mismatched that it reads (beautifully) as an anti-Selah statement: see but don’t perceive, listen but don’t hear.
Posted June 21st, 2012
The owner of this wall has painstakingly painted it white, taking great care to preserve even the smallest details of my piece (done originally on the raw blocks). The negative space between the letters has been made so vivid.
And so the story is retold: gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and
Posted March 18th, 2012
I recently met an Egyptian woman named Saraa who has been actively involved in the ongoing civil resistance that began in Tunisia and has flourished throughout the Arabian nations. Before she left Cape Town, she asked if she could have a stencil to put up in her temporary residence at Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution.
Posted November 17th, 2011
A week ago fires raged through a township nearby called Masiphumelele. This catastrophe left over 5000 people displaced with little more than the clothes on their backs. The rebuilding started immediately; here the skeletons of new homes are seen being built the following day. Within 24 hours the government responded with truckload upon truckload of wood, zinc siding and tarps. Together with many of our friends, we have been sorting donations, helping to build new shacks, providing food and clothing, and painting of course – birds rising up from the ash. This structure was one of a few cinder block buildings to remain standing in the area. I asked the owner what he’d like written along with the birds and he said immediately, “uthixo luthando” which means “God is love.”
So often we go to bring hope, and instead find her smiling in welcome when we arrive.
Posted November 16th, 2011
First Terrence wanted R50 to let me write on his make-shift cinderblock house in Essex Street. Then R10. Then he asked me to come back when I started to walk away. By the end he was holding stencils for me and stopping everyone who passed to tell them “hey look here that joy is mine!” Lower Woodstock.
Posted January 26th, 2010