Welcome to Woodstock, a Cape Town neighbourhood beautified by street art

Photo posted by Carole Moreau on her Facebook page.
 
A giant cat wrapped around a window, a multi-coloured rhinoceros, a peacock bearing the names of neighbourhood children on each of its feathers… These giant works of art and many more decorate the streets of Woodstock, just east of Cape Town. And they have given new life to the suburb’s rundown walls.
 
Some of these sprawling murals are the work of professionals; others have been created by amateurs. But all of them have made Woodstock a destination for street art aficionados and photographers.
 
Photo by Jose Romeu de Abreu.
 
The man behind all this is Ricky Lee Gordon, also known as Freddy Sam, a 28-year-old South African artist who lives in the neighbourhood. In 2011, he launched a project to bring some colour to Woodstock. His goal: to rid the neighbourhood of its bad reputation by highlighting its history and its community through art. Since then, over a dozen houses have been painted by local and international artists. In a country where the shadow of apartheid lingers, many of them chose to paint messages of peace and tolerance.
 
Today, the project also includes workshops organised by the nonprofit organisation Write on Africa. Through one of these workshops, local orphan children painted the walls of the orphanage where they live.
 
Photo posted by Carole Moreau on her
Facebook page.
Contributors

"Residents love this project because the works of art are realistic and meaningful"

Jose Romeu de Abreu lives in Cape Town.
 
I started taking photos of graffiti in and around the Woodstock neighbourhood two years ago. There are new ones being painted all the time. They often depict the cruelty of the world, or meditate on the theme of good versus evil.
 
Photo by Jose Romeu de Abreu.
 
During the Apartheid era, white and black people, Portuguese and Greek people, Jewish people, etc, all lived side by side in Woodstock. Newly-arrived immigrants could find cheap lodging there. It was a poor neighbourhood known for having drug dealers on every corner. Granted, the drug dealers are still there today, but the neighbourhood is undergoing rapid change – it is now also home to office buildings, cafés and rather chic boutiques. Lofts are being built in old warehouses. Today, rich and poor live together in Woodstock.
 
Local residents love Ricky Lee’s project, because the works of art are realistic and meaningful. They also appreciate the fact that he gets the neighbourhood’s children involved; this gives them something to do and keeps them off the streets.
 
The three photos above were posted by Carole Moreau on her Facebook page.
 
Post written with journalist Marie Desgré.
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