Art and Authenticity: A Tour of Woodstock’s Street Art Scene

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e11s1 Art and Authenticity: A Tour of Woodstock’s Street Art Scene

Brief history of Woodstock

While in Cape Town I wanted to take time to discover areas I had never visited before. Cape Town is huge and taking a taxi everywhere for daily adventures can quickly become expensive. Therefore, I have decided to live in the area that I want to explore, to stay only in that area for that specific time, starting with Woodstock!
Woodstock is an industrial suburb about ten minutes outside the city center of Cape Town. It was one of the few areas that did not forcibly remove its non-white inhabitants during the apartheid regime. For those who don’t know, apartheid is the systematic racial segregation implemented and used as the governing strategy in South Africa by the all white National Party between 1948-1994. That Woodstock never was declared an only-white area during the apartheid regime has enabled it to continue being a natural melting-pot of cultures to this day. It used to be an area ravaged by crime but today it is mostly known for its street art and hipster coffee shops.

"Living Apart Entwined" by Faith47, represents our individuality and connectedness.
Shaheed, Juma Art Tour Guide, stopping in one of Woodstocks many artsy allies.

Touring through Cape Town's art and history

Woodstock is known for its street art and hippy-dippy, vibrant vibe but when I asked my accommodation host if it’s safe to walk around she only told me where not to go… this left me a tiny winy bit insecure. Can I not walk the streets here during the day? To me, that did not align with the research I had done about the area. To counteract my newfound fear and insecurity, I decided to book a street art tour with a local tour guide in order to get a sense of the area and where and how I can navigate it. After some quick research I decide to go with the local enterprise Juma Art Tours and an hour later I am face to face with my smiling and enthusiastic guide Shaheed. 
We started the tour at the Woodstock Exchange, a multi-purpose space hosting everything from offices, coffee shops to artisanal enterprises. Many of the available rooms glare emptily back at us. Shaheed explains that this used to be a completely packed space pre-covid but that the effect of the economic reality hit small and artsy enterprises especially hard. “We will recover, we always do, but it’s going to take time.” As we proceed through the neighborhood it is evident that art is as central to the infrastructure of Woodstock as the cement holding the houses together. Art overlaps art, everywhere you look there are some new, or very very old, murals and paintings. Looking at it, taking it all in, I see the interaction between the dramatic landscape of Cape Town that encapsulates Woodstock and the art. It is all connected. The recurring themes of the murals tell the story of unity, community, human rights, social commentary and history. I would highly recommend taking the time to go on a street art tour here if you are interested in the history of not just Woodstock but of Cape Town and South Africa. The art ties and connects the local to the national, history to the present, and enables an understanding of the context you are existing within right now.
Delicious fajitas from The Fat Cactus in Woodstock.
The tour ends in Shaheed’s kitchen. What was supposed to be one glass of water turns into a conversation of nearly two hours. We talk about what is important to us in life, exchange experiences of living in faith and how that has impacted the choices we make on a daily basis. What stands out about Shaheed is how he lives from his heart. Any and every decision seems to stem from his heart, fully secure that whatever will come from those heart decisions is a blessing or guidance from above. This has led Shaheed to have a huge family as many young people have sought and found refuge in his and his wife’s caring home. As I sit on a stool in the kitchen, the many people making up this expansive home come and go. Kids, teenagers and youngsters, some live there and some are just visiting, but everyone seems to feel right at home. And nobody is at all surprised that their father brought me home to sit at their kitchen table. The hospitality I feel is warm and encapsulating, I could stay here in this family forever. But eventually I have to leave, after all, I have a dance festival to get ready for! One of Shaheed’s sons recommended the restaurant The Fat Cactus and I gratefully accepted a ride there. Their food and vibe truly was amazing!
Street art woodstock cape town
"A Minor Refusal" by Know Hope, a comment on the relationship between the locals and the government during the ongoing process of gentrification of Woodstock.
theglobalentity street art woodstock
Unknown artist(s) to vibrant art in Woodstock.

6 thoughts on “Art and Authenticity: A Tour of Woodstock’s Street Art Scene”

  1. Monica Andersson

    Jätteintressant att läsa. Får följa din resa mer i detalj, hur du manövreras o hör val för att hanter der som uppstår.
    Jättefint skrivet.

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