“What’s the difference between tagging and vandalism,” asked Juma. He let us ponder it for a moment and then replied, “Tagging is when you add something without changing the piece, whereas vandalism alters the artworks original idea, message or intent.” That was the moment Juma transformed from being a docent reciting a stale tour to being a guide leading us on an expedition through his community. It was apparent that Juma lived and breathed the street art in front of us, and he was as much a part of it, as it was of him.
The last time we were in Cape Town was five years ago. The weather was cold, rainy and windy. Most of our time was spent either indoors or driving the Cape Peninsula. We do remember driving passed some murals and making a note next time we were in town we needed to look into the street art scene. Upon our return to Cape Town, the first adventure we scheduled was a tour with Juma Mkwela of Juma Art Tours to guide us through the sea of art in the Woodstock area.
To understand the importance of the art in Woodstock, one needs to know how it came to be. The Woodstock Exchange, once the Woodstock Industrial Center, lies at the center of this story, much like it marks the heart of Woodstock itself. Once home to artists, designers, and small-scale manufacturers it was sold to developers who came in and turned it into a retail and dining hub, leaving its previous occupants looking for new digs. Many of them chose to stay in the neighborhood creating the base for one of the best street art movements we have come across. There are approximately 110 pieces throughout the area with an unheard of shelf life, some of these pieces are coming into their fifth year. In some cities, artists pieces are vandalized hours or days after they appear, but to have a community that not only respects but promotes each other is inspiring.
Juma has been giving tours of his neighborhood since 2012 and believes that colorful streets are like walking in the light. “We paint to inspire ourselves so as to inspire others,” says Juma about the movement that has put Woodstock on the map. Woodstock used to be known for a very different reason, a place even the police would hesitate to enter. Now you will find a district that is shaking away its checkered past and rising as an example of what can happen. Walking the art-lined streets with Juma we felt safe, but it was also obvious to us had we been on our own with our cameras hanging out we would not have felt as secure. With that said, yes, we would still visit and walk Woodstock on our own. The area has so much to offer. We just wouldn’t take all our gear with us.
How to Book with Juma
Website info: Township Art Tours
Cost: R200pp and up depending on the tour of our choosing
Meeting Place: Front entrance of Woodstock Exchange or designated place agreed upon between you and Juma
4 out of 5 Travelationship High Fives. We would like to see Juma’s website provide more detailed information about each tour. When we arrived, he explained the art routes are split into two sections. We toured section one which covered many pieces East of Woodstock Exchange. Had we known there were two parts and a lot more art to see we would have scheduled differently. Type of traveler rating – adventure, historical, bucket lister, street art, local.
* Thank you to Juma for the complimentary tour. As always, our opinions are ours – honest, not biased and as we experienced.