Admittedly I was tentative steering into the lot. Having only interacted with their reps briefly and having made the mistake of giving the rumours weight, or perhaps suffering a modest case of pre article jitters. Culminating to ambiguous vibes, to say the least. Parking the car and mentally going over the plan once again. A two-stepper; One, buy something from the little coffeeshop behind Beth Uriel ; Two, wander aimlessly, aiming to find an artist or two in the act.
BAZ-art (henceforth BAZ) born of a conversation, about how there should be a festival that celebrates street art instead of it remaining largely “ignored because it is misunderstood”1. The result? The first year’s festival being hosted a mere month later. A far cry from today’s major undertaking, three years later. Running until Sunday the 17th of Feburary, BAZ presents this year’s theme Generation Next, rooted in the idea that education is both important and “needs to change.”
Having rounded a corner on my way over the gravel to Me’kasi Kafé, a hand softly griped my arm.
“Hi! You here for the street art tour?”
“Yeah, I’m cruising around in a bit.”
“Great, I’m Nadia.”
Nadia, one of the authenticated tour guides in BAZ’s employ, who’s mother-figure energy goes a long way to quelling my reservations. Also whom, I later overhear, discussing how humble this year’s set of artists are, “…there are two types, your everyday people and your rock stars…”
The artists, a fairly eclectic bunch; From some hard hitting industry names, all the way through to the new kids on the block, proved Nadia no lier. Stopping their work, even when they were being pulled out of ‘the zone’, to chat to passers by, to let kids help them paint and to chat about their concepts when it came around to media-day. Notably All painting for free.
The reason and aim being, BAZ explains, is to maximise fairness and bring in a share of international artists. You see, their structure is such that they get one of their sponsoring partners to pay for an artist. In this way they were able to provide, as I hear it, unbelievable support, from heavy rigging, to any and all paint, “It’s like being a kid in a candy store.” Jono Wots
All in all, there was the feeling of inspiration amongst the artists, Mernette Swart resonating with Mr & Mrs Soni on the empowering nature of education and Justin Nomad on edification. I’ll leave the rest to you, as any good bit of origination they beg a touch of interpretation and perhaps a little reading between the lines.
The festival itself, attracts an equally indiscriminate set of fans. For example, The Three Sisters, as they’re fondly known to the festival organisers. This triplet have been attending the festival since inception in 2017, albeit looking more at home in Locale than the streets of Salt River. As well the youth I met admiring Damn Vandal’s “Stay Beautiful” piece. This in addition the media kids running around – we don’t count, alternative motives and all that.
Working in conjunction with the city of Cape Town. Who according to the ward’s brand new councillor, is aiming to actively extend Cape Town’s arts and culture footprint away from the city’s centre… with a focus on community development.”
However, the community seems largely in the dark. Although community leaders were approached and of-course permission was sought for the selected walls. The word doesn’t have seem to have trickled down to the streets. One pair of kids on their way back from school loudly proclaiming, “Why you taking a picture of that?” Evidently the street art is something they are proud of, with their demeanour swinging all the way over to “Have you seen there by the park? Come, come with us now.” Ringing true to the councillor’s view to “create spaces that communities are proud to live in.”
‘The Man’ at large, also seems to be on board. The city noting that Salt River is essentially one of the city’s “most high profile spaces.” With investment looking to “increase over the next two years.” This is given further weight by property owners often granting more than one wall and developers divulging that they “are not opposed to the graffiti” and “have in a few occasions noted some of the new artwork.” Fortuitously, a far cry from the Broken window theory, guiding much of the surrounding legislation of yesteryears.
Of course for those of you with a taste for contientization, this brings up some rather touchy points. We’re not going to get into them here, but rest assured after our off the record chat, BAZ invited me to invite you to send some concerns and ideas their way. Ultimately nothing is perfect and we are all responsible for balancing our own scales. A concept, not lost on the collective, myself included. Some of the artists acknowledging that affiliation is a choice, in the same breath as explaining how street art attempts, in its essence, to subvert the exclusionary nature that art has come to body and overcome our instilled anxieties of interaction.
As far as can be seen they’ve pulled this right off, running from piece to piece was a rave of a time. if you’re interested, BAZ has focused on keeping its primary art enabling efforts centred in Salt River, they offer guided tours, audio tours and a map of the past three year’s output.
1: BAZ-Art Representative.