Woodstock Street Art: Cape Town’s Urban Gallery

Woodstock street art Cape Town

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Cape Town is nothing if not a melting pot of cultures. The Woodstock street art demonstrates this particularly well. With urban murals on every corner, Woodstock is a must-visit for street art fans visiting Cape Town, South Africa.

But what is it about? Who painted this street art in Woodstock, Cape Town? In this guide, I’ll share all I know about the street art in Cape Town as well as the photos I took exploring.

My friend Marie, a Capetonian local, took me to explore the street art of Woodstock and at a later date, I heard about the street art walking tours with Cape Town Woodstock Street Art Walking Tour.

Between Marie’s knowledge and the insightful tour, I’ve seen and learnt lots about the Woodstock street art. There are plenty more pieces I’ve not seen which is the real beauty of Woodstock. There’s always something new being created.

Woodstock Street art Cape Town

Street art in Woodstock, Cape Town

Let’s begin with the Cape Town street art tour I took.

I met my guide, Keto, for the hour-long Woodstock street art adventure outside Woodstock’s Exchange (an urban centre with lots of hipster coffee and clothes shops).

Keto was born in Cape Town to Angolan parents and had only been doing the tours for a month. I was actually the only customer that day so I had full access to his wealth of street art knowledge. I also bothered him by asking for LOTS of photos of me with the art.

Crane street art Woodstock Cape Town

Endangered animals in Woodstock street art

This work above shows a blue crane and, like much of the Woodstock art, carries an important message. Blue cranes are endangered, partly because of farmers using pesticides on their crops. Beside the image of the lifelike crane you can see the text ‘vulnerably endangered since 1980’.

Keto told me this wasn’t the only image relating to conservation, and we visited a second animal painting a few streets away.

Giraffe street art Woodstock Cape Town

The Rothschild Giraffe is native to Kenya and Uganda but is in decline due to poaching. Keto told me the gentle giants are usually hunted for their skin which is made into clothing and furniture. As the text tells us, has resulted in less than 2,500 animals still existing in the wild.

Rhino street art in Cape Town

While most of the Woodstock street art is well preserved, this exhibit on rhino conservation carries an interesting message. People think that the loss of paint represents the loss of rhinos, and it’s God’s hand that has helped erase the imagery. It certainly feels poignant – the sale of rhino horn has just been legalised in South Africa and the animals’ futures look bleak.

Human rights

As well as animal rights, the street art in Cape Town tells the tale human rights, too. Another art installation with shifting meaning is this coloured globe behind bars.

Jail cell street art Woodstock Cape Town

An identical image was painted in Nelson Mandela’s jail cell by the same artist to represent diversity and inclusion of all races, genders and sexualities. The only reason for the bars that currently block the image off from the street is that people were dumping rubbish in the corner beside it, so it was cornered off for protection. But considering the links with Mandela, the bars perhaps add an even more interesting dimension to the painting.

Community in Woodstock, Cape Town

The below piece of Woodstock street art represents the local men who sit smoking on the streets but, despite looking tough, only wish peace to passersby. The second painting below shows the artist’s imagination of his immune system.

Old man street art Woodstock Cape Town

Aren’t these awesome? A few of the designs, like this one directly above, depict colourful cartoons with the intent to keep the local children feeling safe and welcome.

Family is an important theme in the residential neighbourhood that is Woodstock, and this image below was created by a family of three. The one below that – which shows a beautiful bird on the side of a house – was painted for a young boy who lived there and loved and collected pet birds.

Woodstock street art Cape Town
Mountain and street art Cape Town

Another theme displayed by Woodstock’s street art is that of community. Keto showed me the ‘communications’ wall which shows a wolf on one side and a chihuahua on the other. The idea is that neither knows the other is there despite the fact they are right beside each other, and tells the tale of many modern communities.

Dog street art Woodstock Cape Town
Chihuahua street art Woodstock Cape Town

A few paintings we saw – like these two below – show animals with human features like eyes. This represents the need for equality – for both people and animals.

Colourful dog street art Woodstock Cape Town
Peacock street art Woodstock Cape Town

Protest in Woodstock street art

In a country that’s faced many political struggles, the Woodstock street art tells heavy stories. Countless black people died protesting to be able to study in their local language, Xhosa, and the protests are depicted in the images below.

Riot street art Woodstock Cape Town

Focusing on struggles within the rest of the continent, one art piece references the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, using Power Puff Girl imagery to tell the story of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists.

Power Puff Girl Street art Woodstock Cape Town

Local legends

On a lighter note, local myth is well represented in the Woodstock street art. The image below symbolises reincarnation but also mirrors the view behind it of Devil’s Peak. Keto told me the local tale of the governor who lived up on top of the mountain, and one day was challenged to a smoking competition by a man he met.

Zebra street art Woodstock Cape Town

As the other man blew out smoke, the governor saw he had horns – and realised he was smoking with the devil. Subsequently, Devil’s Peak got its name and locals associate the clouds that sometimes cling to the mountain with the devil.

One of the Woodstock street art pieces I liked the most showed a giant image of one of my favourite animals – an elephant!

Elephant street art Woodstock Cape Town

This piece is the artist’s representation of a story he saw on social media. A woman was apparently saved from drowning by an elephant (I’m not sure who she was – I’ve not heard the story!) and inspired this colourful mural.

The final piece we saw before the Woodstock street art tour ended was one representing mood. The woman in the painting has four sides to her face – and shows how your mood can change four times even in a single day. The artist wasn’t wrong, but my mood was pretty consistent throughout the day of my tour: constantly awestruck by my cool surroundings!

Four face street art Woodstock Cape Town

Finishing up

I was amazed by the street art in Woodstock and the sheer volume of it. When I went exploring with my friend Marie, we didn’t come across any of the same art pieces – they were all different. While we didn’t know the meaning behind this Cape Town street art without a guide, this meant we got to make up our own interpretations…

Umbrella street art Woodstock Cape Town

Another name for Cape Town is the Mother City – is this brightly painted woman the mother herself? Does the musical imagery pay homage to the city’s jazz era? We’ll never know but it was fun to guess.

Book a Cape Town Woodstock Street Art Walking Tour to explore & learn about the area!

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See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

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Cape Town Woodstock street art guide

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