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Home BLOGS Guest Blog Put on Cape. Go to Town.

Put on Cape. Go to Town.

Written by David Shillinglaw   
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 10:13
April found me landing in the Southern hemisphere for the first time. I landed in Cape Town at the tail end of March to make the most of my month residency at A Word Of Art gallery. I was artist in residence along side an incredible artist from Vancouver named Indigo. I was greeted at the airport by Ricky Lee Gordon. Ricky is the captain of the ‘word of art’ ship. He immediately drove us to signal point to see the city from above, grabbing a six-pack of black label en route. The Ocean was completely covered in a thick foggy mist, a strange sight even for a native Capetownian. The sun sank and set as we drank beers from bottles. From that point my cape was on and I was going to town. South Africa opened its arms to me and set me forward into the colourful world of Cape Town. -David Shillinglaw

A Word Of Art apartment, where I spent the month living, working and playing.

The view of Lion’s Head from the balcony.

From where I was sitting, the way of life in Cape Town is very delicious... There is so much happy food.

You can go swimming in quarries.

You can drive around in old beetles with awesome peoples. Big love to Anthea Duce, she’s the captains first mate, general fixer, graphic designer deluxe and superstar DJ.

Indigo arrived a few days after and we immediately got our paint on at a night market, somewhere called the ‘Labia Theater’ !?

I only got one day on the beach, but it was on of the best of days of my little life. Eating sand covered avocados, falling in love with golden horizons, drinking and burying hot dogs.

And so began the happy onslaught of art making. We stayed at the gallery, which is located in the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock, about 15 minutes out of town. Woodstock is famous for fabric warehouses, markets, Crystal Meth and more recently a growing number of murals and pieces of public art. On my first tour of the neighborhood I was blown away with what was on offer, walls of all sizes, people houses and wooden shacks, all begging to be painted, the only restriction is paint, ladders and imagination. How’s this for a blank canvas?

The first piece I made was a little salon shop front.

There were also countless of walls and stairwells inside the industrial centre, artists in the Woodstock industrial centre are spoiled for choice.

I found a wall that felt really good, in a great location. By day a lovely street full of kids screaming and laughing and playing mad games, great views and a steady flow of chatty crack heads. By night, however, this street is not a very safe place to be. I spent a good few days up a ladder taking in the local vibes, conversations with locals, tourists, children, people of all colours, shapes and sizes. With table mountain over my left shoulder and big blue skies over-head, a mad wind blew through these narrow streets spitting dust and rocking the ladders. It was an amazing few days spent, the text in the piece came from singing ‘you’ve got the whole world…’ with the children while I was painting. See more walls I painted here.

Daytime painting in Cape Town and its surrounding suburbs comes hand in hand with children. Within 15 minutes you have a posse of beautiful distractions snapping at your heels, happily demanding their names be painted on the wall.

Wall painted in Khayelitsha, a township in Western Cape Town:

I was honored to be invited to paint a wall at The Percy Bartley House an NGO operating out of a home in Woodstock. The staff and residence are beautiful inspiring people and I suggest if you are ever in Cape Town pay them a visit and see all the amazing international mural art that covers the walls. While I painted in the living room Indigo painted on the roof. Many thanks to Ogilvy for their support of this ‘Write On Africa’ project.

Freddy Sam

The Woodstock neighborhood is fast becoming a living, breathing gallery of streets and ally ways, houses and buildings, loaded with amazing art, made by artists of varied disciplines, ages and nationalities, mixing graffiti, illustration, design and murals in an environment rich with both decay and development. Here are a handful of artists I met or admired while in Cape Town. High grade passion in every direction.

Faith 47


Black Koki

Linsey Levendall

Justin Southey

Paul Senyol

Dal East


Back to the studio. Half way through the month and 1 week before our show. Indigo and I pretty much lived in the gallery, painting, eating, dancing, building a world around the art we had made. See more photos of the work from our show here.

No rest for the wicked.

The magical work of Indigo

The installation we built together from junk we found in and around Woodstock.

During the exhibition set up we also had the fortune to collaborate with some awesome artists, 2 such artists are the MEME Motion team (http://mememotion.tv/) who created this little film and series of animations and also VJ’d at the opening. These ladies know how to make things happen. Here is the film they made to bring together the animations and shots from the show.

Another awesome fellow and collaborator is the talented Mr. Fuzzy Slipperz. Rapper, illustrator, DJ, artist and entrepreneur. Check his sounds with VoiceTag and his artworks and projects with Mafuta Ink.

Fuzzy and I went a several missions, this particular one was captured rather nicely by photographer and poet Adam Kent Wiest.

My time in South Africa had come to an end. This coincided with the remarkable event of ‘Africa Burns’. A festival deep in the Karoo desert, hours drive from anything except rocks, dust and the occasional tumbling weed. This baron but immensely beautiful landscape is transformed for 1 week every year. A whole spectrum of people arrive, in the fanciest of dress, wielding bottles of magic potions and riding post-apocalyptic skate boards. Everyone at ‘The Burn’ is very committed to the cause of having as much fun as possible. 3000 people congregate to create, inspire and celebrate life and living. The craziest part is that The Burn is a gift economy, nothing is for sale, (except for ice). The Burn offers food, coffee, a new set of clothes, a haircut and a disco shower all this and much more, for free, or trade, or gift, or however you want to word it, NO MONEY.

Altogether it was one of the craziest and awe-inspiring 4 days of my life. Nonstop, eye opening, jaw dropping, beautiful madness in ever direction, you could strike sparks anywhere.

One of my Cape Town comrades and festival companions was Montle, A fine young man, and a writer with a sharp pen and an honest eye. Read his account of The Burn on the Mahala web site.

My last sunrise in South Africa. Just after this photo was snapped, I jumped in the back of a truck and drove directly to the airport to catch my long flight home. No sleep ‘til London, with an emotional galaxy of images bouncing around in my head, dub step still ringing in my ears, painted blue finger nails, guy liner, and sand in my hair. I made my flight and landed back in London, genuinely wondering whether the past month had been some lucid hallucination. I’m still wondering.

Sydelle Willow Smith

I also had the pleasure of spending time with the wonderful and talented Sydelle Willow Smith and Rowan Pybus. Their photography and cinematography is stunning, highly accomplished, and does absolute justice to the whole spirit of Africa Burns.

Rowan Pybus

Lastly a massive thank you to Indigo, Ricky, Duce, Willard, Juma, and the many beautiful, magical people I met in South Africa. One of the most inspiring months of my little life. My heart is now a different shape.

Words and most photos: David Shillinglaw

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