This was written for VISI. You can view it here.
Southapedia Mural Festival (SMF), recently held in Durban, is a collaborative initiative between artists and building owners to create site-specific murals that celebrate South African culture.
We caught up with travelling artist Resoborg, who developed the Southapedia Mural Programme, to chat about the specific themes for each mural, why creating better opportunities for artists is imperative for the growth of the South African art scene, and why it’s important for local youth to be exposed to art not usually presented in mainstream educational institutions.
Which mural projects across the globe inspired you to develop Southapedia Mural Festival?
I have had the opportunity to work on a number of international mural projects, but last year I was really inspired by what I had experienced with Staufferstadt Arts. Based in a small town in Virginia, this small art organisation brings contemporary urban art to the town while providing a generous stipend to support the participating artists. It’s really great to be valued as an artist, to be given the opportunity to paint and be paid for it. That fact, along with the team’s deep desire to bring more art to the town, inspired me to want do something similar back home.
Tell us a bit about the lack of funding and opportunities for local artists, especially those in Durban, and how SMF uplifts those artists.
Because there are so many larger issues facing South Africa, funding for the arts is simply not a priority. There are some options, but it is just not an easy process to work through. SMF was created to give invited artists the opportunity to work on a site-specific mural that relates to the area and the building, get paid decently and have a high-quality video that they can use to promote their work. The videos of each artists’ work in particular will certainly open doors for bigger projects from them in the future. SMF also opens up the opportunity to do community workshops, which we did two of with a local NGO called Surfers Not Street Children.
Discuss SMF’s theme: the celebration of local culture across past, present and future.
Street art is not as prevalent in Durban as it is in other cities so it was a process of figuring out what the building owners would allow to be painted, as well as what the sponsors wanted. Ultimately, we decided to have a less-is-more approach in terms of making sure all involved were paid well, as opposed to making it bigger and asking artists to paint for “exposure”.
Mook Lion’s mural Workshop, Wheel, Point depicts the first train ever built in South Africa; it used to run directly past the building where the mural is located. My collaboration with Gabriel Katsande and Blessing Samukele, titled Back To The Future, was largely sponsored by Innovate Durban, a company that aims at stimulating digital innovation in the KZN region. They wanted the muralists to create something that was inspirational, a nod toward innovation.
Lastly the collaboration with Paul Senyol and Conform from Cape Town (our two invited artists from outside of KZN) titled Transitional Architexture was inspired by the many historical buildings found in the area. All the murals are within walking distance and near the Point Harbour, which has lots of history.
Elaborate on the creative process behind each mural.
The physical train that Mook painted stands at Durban Station and he looked at bringing contemporary living conditions into the mural as well. Instead of having a train conductor pictured, Mook incorporated a taxi driver that is pictured signalling the taxi route “Workshop, Wheel, Point!”. The train also runs very close to the sea and so it was fitting to include an ocean element with the historic bluff area into the artwork as well.
My mural faces the city’s CBD and considers the location where people would be going when travelling past the mural. The idea was to create something that plays on the idea of what a future Durban could look like.
Paul Senyol and Conform researched various photographic references of buildings in the area, as well as images of local workers that they wanted to include into the mural, therefore being a celebration of both past and the present.
What’s next on the cards for you with regards to SMF and your own personal work?
Subject to funding that we may receive, we will continue SMF next year and continue to give other artists opportunities to be involved. There are a number of mural and illustration projects that are coming up, but I am really excited about going to Kenya in early 2020 to paint a couple of murals for an NGO called One Acre Fund.
What drives your creatively?
There is so much negativity in the world and so many things that can make me depressed or sad. The reason I try do these types of projects, and with lots of colour, is to try and do something that hopefully uplifts others and impacts communities.
What is your advice for up-and-coming artists in South Africa?
I think it’s important, if you want to be an artist, to do it because you enjoy it and not because of how many followers you can get or what social status you can achieve. Be patient and enjoy the journey and process of developing your own unique style and voice. It’s so important to develop a unique visual narrative within your work.
Images: Andre Duma from Snoop Photography