Artistic archive


Written by: HYPE Staff, Photography: Cale Waddacor (@calewale)

Graffiti South Africa is a platform I established in 2011 to document South Africa’s rising graffiti and street art scene on the world stage. I created a website to highlight artists, events, and anything relevant to the local community. I wanted to cover the whole country while also sharing work further afield, across Africa. Many international graffiti blogs and publications rarely feature African artworks, so I wanted to change this too.

Tykuno, Zesta and Page33. Johannesburg, 2017.

In 2014, I released a book with the same name and launched it in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Since then, I have been involved in a myriad of projects; from artwork commissions for interior spaces and live events to public speaking, running workshops and writing articles for overseas publications. I love being a trusted and reliable source for promoting local graffiti art and photography.

How did you get into taking photos of graffiti?

I was very inquisitive when I first started to notice graffiti on the streets – I needed to find out more about this mysterious art form… Who did it? Why? I soon realised how ephemeral it is, not only because it can be easily overpainted, but because some artists didn’t care to shoot pictures of their own work, and therefore I began documenting everything in fine detail (many artworks pre-social media are gone forever). I was also inspired by the many international graffiti publications.

Cale Waddacor at Street Art Cinemart (2nd edition) stand. Johannesburg, 2019.

What would you say that book did for you and your initiative?

I think the second book, which was published by leading art and design publisher Thames & Hudson, took me and my initiative to an even higher level of recognition and respect. I hope to engage further as a leading authority on the subject and continue my work in the graffiti and street art field among the international community. Having a few books behind one’s name definitely opens a lot more doors than when I was trying to break one down with my first proposal in 2008 !

Black Koki, Skull Boy and Ello. Durban, c. 2017

From the work you’ve done documenting graffiti in SA, what would you say is the main attitude towards graffiti in the country?

There is always going to be a mixed bag of opinions about graffiti, but I’d say it is a lot more widely accepted and appreciated in SA. Brands and corporates are utilising graffiti for office murals, products and advertising campaigns. The general public is getting to see bigger and better artworks painted on the streets. Artists are garnering more commission-based work and are able to travel and pursue their dreams of being full-time graffiti artists.

Dekor One. Johannesburg, 2017.

What new graffiti artists do you particularly like? And why?

I’m always staying in touch by lurking on the streets and on social media, keeping a close eye on the local scene. Lately, I’ve enjoyed seeing young artists from other backgrounds, such as illustration and graphic design, taking their practice outdoors, as well as witnessing the new wave of graffiti writers take things further. Some include: Flowrinwatr, Pat, Zombie 193K (with Polizei), Nathan Sanan, Tannie (with Mook Lion), Drake, Anser, Falkab, Meg Moore, Dbongz, Caspr and the so-called return of Motel7.

Slegh. Johannesburg, c. 2015


What happened to Street Art Cinemart?

Street Art Cinemart was an event I created to showcase films and publications (such as books and zines) related to South African graffiti and street art. Founded in 2018, and held at The Bioscope in Johannesburg, the first couple of events also included group exhibitions, sticker packs and prints, a stencil-making workshop, a sketching session (in partnership with Sharpie) and walking tours (with Past Experiences). The third edition went digital due to the coronavirus pandemic, although I am looking to one day host something overseas or in Cape Town.

Myza420. Johannesburg, c. 2018.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a new project called The South African Graffiti Archive (SAGA). I want to create a great library for everything related to SA’s vibrant graffiti, urban and street art arena. Over the years, I have collected thousands of images, media and other paraphernalia, and it will be fun to put it together into a book or exhibition, let alone a “keep safe” for posterity’s sake. A lot of files have been lost or damaged over the years, and I want to help preserve what I can from now on. It has been amazing to also connect with many artists who have “crawled out of the woodwork” via social media for the first time, or trace those who have long been underground. I want to dig up more facts, stories, opinions and histories, and I also need to give old film photographs the high-quality scanning they deserve. I was awarded a grant from the British Council towards this initiative.

Check out more @streetartafricabook @streetartcinemart

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