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Thursday Jul 26, 2012

Joburg's street art takes its place in urban regeneration

City walls plastered with graffiti have become hard to ignore as artists continue to make their mark by using Joburg shop fronts and buildings as their canvases.

Graffiti - once a symbol of gangs, violence and disrespect for the law - is taking on a different meaning and becoming more about social and political change.

It has grown in popularity in recent times with both the general public and the art community.

People like Banksy, a wellknown graffiti artist and political activist based in England,are becoming known globally.

His work is often a satirical look at consumerism, politics and modern life in general.

Art to some but vandalism to others, graffiti marks the rise of hip hop culture.

Whether it's murals that span

Cgigantic walls or signature-like "tags", spray-painted graffiti is the chosen mode of expression for many SA youths. But it's also been the cause of many headaches for municipalities and property management companies as they have to pay for the graffiti removal.

"It's a matter of freedom of expression versus freedom of choice," said Hanre Heunis from Graffiti Removal Services, who says many see graffiti as malicious damage to property.

He said his company dealt mainly with the removal of tags which are usually simple, singlecolour signatures.

Tags are seldom put up again after they've been removed.

He advises property owners to have tags removed as soon as possible as they are usually put up to test the owners' leniency towards graffiti. If the tags are not removed "it brings attention to your wall" and could be seen as an invitation by other taggers, said Heunis.

"It's never gonna stop," said Dave, a member of the PCP Crew which does graffiti, when asked about tagging.

However, he said many graffiti artists do "grow out of it".

Dave said the growth of the graffiti culture was inevitable due to globalisation.

"The world is getting smaller, so kids are exposed to different cultures."

The PCP Crew started selling their work out of the boot of a car and are now the owners of the Greyscale Gallery in Braamfontein in Joburg.

PCP Crew members Rasty, Curio and Angel are well known locally, particularly Rasty who is known for his work during the 2010 World Cup.

Another Joburg-based graffiti artist, who preferred to remain anonymous, said tagging was usually done competitively as each crew attempted to have its name up more than any other crew.

Graffiti is seen as unlawful when permission from the property owner has not been obtained by the artist.

Artists found putting up their work illegally could be arrested and made to pay for the removal of the graffiti.

The deputy director of immovable heritage in Joburg's arts, culture and heritage department, Eric Itzkin, in an article published on the city's website, said the city was keen to remove "unsightly tagging", which was a nuisance and was usually done without the permission of the owner of the walls or buildings.

"We make it a condition that street art should only be done with the owner's permission."

Joburg has a public art policy that is not against tasteful public art, but it does state that that major landmarks and declared heritage sites should be kept clear of unwanted graffiti.

"We recognise that high-end mural art can be a positive force for artistic expression.

"It can help enliven the urban environment and contribute to urban regeneration," explains Itzkin.

Read more on the website: php?option=com_content&view= article&id=8189&catid=88&Itemi d=266#ixzz20xmpacvq

The Star

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