It’s often scary to understand Johannesburg from somebody else’s perspective. I have family that live overseas, and if they ever visit ‘home’, the perspective tends to be very one-sided.
The have a misunderstanding of Johannesburg (my first love, as I’ve always said in previous posts), they see it as dirty, crime washed and without hope. And tirelessly, each time one of my estranged cousins visit, I make the same effort to show them the opposite.
Mandela by Shepard Fairey
I’ve always been a massive advocate for PAST Experience’s inner city tours. They take the stereotypes of our city and turn them on their head, taking their guests into unexpected places, showing them the beauty in our urban landscape. Jo Buitendach, who started PAST Experiences, and I sorta go way back, we used to spend a lot of time in the same bar, Tokyo Star (the original, not the shitty excuse for it in Greenside now). So basically, this qualifies her as ‘my people’, and I get how she thinks, and most importantly, I understand the beauty she sees in our city.
Recently, I took my cousin from Australia along on one of Jo’s graffiti tours. PAST Experiences runs graffiti tours all over the city now, but I had been itching to go on a Braamfontein one for a while and the dates worked out.
The tours are led by actual graffiti artists, the same guys that have put up some of the epic murals (and scratchy tags) that you’ll see on one these tours, which obviously makes them proper authentic. This particular one was led by Bias, or as I know him, Heather’s Ray. Also, Heather is 2Summers, and Ray has his own blog category dedicated to him, so you can read about him there. It sounds complicated but it isn’t really.
The tour covers a fairly big section of Braamfontein, starting around the popular Neighbourgoods Market precinct and working outwards towards WITS University and then back around to the original starting point.
Piece by Veronika
All along the tour. Ray takes his time to carefully explain the different kinds of graffiti, using examples readily available all over the sides of buildings. He includes detailed history and funny anecdotes, his dry sense of humour floating through every so often.
Ray is a big advocate for the change and voice that graffiti can bring about in a society, and spreading his message through this channel is a gift for those that choose to go along and listen.
I wish I had had a pen and paper, and I would’ve written down each and every artist and detail Ray had told me about these works. Luckily, we’re pretty friendly so I can probably just ask him, hey Ray?
PAST Experiences runs awesome weekend tours all the time, check them out on their website here. Get off your couch and learn something.