Nature-related graffiti in Cape Town

By David Maddox

Many of us think of urban graffiti as a nuisance, as an illegality, as a challenge to authority. Exactly, especially the last one. And it is also a form a communication, sometimes the only form available to people who aren't so well represented in the media. Alex Alonso wrote an interesting piece on urban graffiti and its typologies, and discussed how graffiti can provide insight into societal attitudes and perceptions. Graffiti includes political commentary, personal or 'existential' messages, gang-related territorial demarcation, simple 'tags', elegant 'piecing' where tags or names are elaborate, and larger works that, more obviously like art, that combine comment with an clear aesthetic.

So if we were to listen to people about their perceptions and views on nature in cities, what would we learn? Pippin Anderson wrote about this in a recent Nature of Cities blog, providing a photo essay of nature-related graffiti around Cape Town. She describes a number of emergent themes: an urban memory of rural nature, political statements about conservation of African mega fauna, nature as beautiful and suggestive of a better way of life, and simply to beautify, bringing depictions of nature into places that otherwise might be a barren concrete-scape.

Graffiti in Cape Town presents cities as counter to a rural idyll, the aesthetic form as non-nature, or aesthetically requiring the remediation which natural scenes can provide, as the site of the greatest populace where 'armies' can be called on to take up causes, in particular in the South African context, for conservation concerns. — Pippin Anderson, "What Does Urban Nature-Related Graffiti Tell Us? A Photo Essay from the City of Cape Town".

Urban graffiti is a window into what people are thinking; what they desire. It tells us there are voices of dissent, personal views not always captured by popular media. Nature-related graffiti suggests there are desires for nature not always represented into the modern urban form, a desire for more nature, both in cities, and beyond.

Here are a few images. See more here. Photos by Jaques de Satage.

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