Imagine being suspended 22 metres above the ground in rain and against a driving wind to complete a mural in one of South Africa’s most densely-populated communities. Imagine that all you have is one assistant and it takes the two of you 15 days to complete what is arguably Cape Town’s largest mural and one of the biggest in South Africa. Imagine doing this against a background of an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, stricter third wave lockdown restrictions and escalating taxi violence.
This is the experience of street artist Nadia Fisher, aka Nardstar*, who recently completed the huge mural “Ubuntu” as part of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa’s (OSF- SA’s) COVID-19 awareness campaign, which seeks to use creative means to inspire action and change perceptions around COVID-19 in South Africa.
“OSF-SA is primarily a grantmaking organisation and talking to our grantees and partners in the field, we noted that many people in the communities in which they worked were struggling to embrace the more formal messaging contained in traditional COVID-19 awareness campaigns,” says OSF-SA’s Head of Communications, Maxine Case.
“We decided to launch this mural project in selected communities in Cape Town as part of a pilot project that looks at more creative ways of entrenching messages around COVID-19.” OSF-SA contracted several artists to work in communities such as Tafelsig, Philippi, Lavender Hill and Langa. All artists were encouraged to liaise with the communities in which their works would be set – to understand their issues and challenges around COVID-19. Designs were informed by feedback from the community.
As the creator of the eye-catching mural in the OSF-SA offices, Nardstar* was a natural choice to be included in the project.
“When the community of Philippi was asked about what could possibly be a positive outcome of the pandemic, they all spoke about the spirit of Ubuntu. Like so many South Africans, they had lost jobs and loved ones and, as a result, the community started helping each other. I wanted this mural to be a constant reminder and a celebration of their fighting spirit and that, when they are faced with challenges, they choose to stand together and
strengthen each other,” said Nardstar*.
The location of the work is the old cement works in Philippi, where the ribs of the old factory jostle with the more recently built Philippi Village. Nardstar* is no newcomer to the area. Several of her works, alongside that of other artists, adorn the walls near to the silo that dominates the landscape from kilometres away. It is the 22-metre towers of this silo that serve as the canvas for Nard’s most ambitious work yet.
“We used roller paint for the bigger patches of colour and cans for the smaller shapes. It’s a logistical thing to cut time because of the size,” said Nardstar, who completed the mural with the assistance of Bernard Greybe. “I simplified the colour palette to make the painting process less complicated.” She then created a full colour reference, “so we wouldn’t waste any time thinking about what colour needed to go where. Bern had his own copy of the full colour reference and we kept all the paint in between us for easy reach.”
The two worked from a cherry picker that was on site for the duration of the project and which enabled them to access the higher reaches of the tower. The finished height of the mural was restricted by the cherry picker’s reach – or else it would have been even bigger, Nardstar* said.
About the work
● 360 square metres of mural
● +/- 120 litres of paint used
● Painted using a mixture of spray paint, rollers and brushes – the kind usually used to paint houses
Nardstar* is a street artist based in Cape Town. Her style marries geometric shapes, traditional graffiti lettering and is typified by bold lines, distinctive colour palettes and engaging subject matter. She is known for her vibrant artworks that enrich their surroundings and spark constructive dialogue. Nardstar’s work has been showcased internationally, including in the USA, France, Germany and Brazil. She has participated in a number of artists’ residencies around the world. In addition, Nardstar has worked for a number of South African and global clients. For more information, visit www.nardstar.com.
OSF-SA is the South African national foundation of the global philanthropic organisation the Open Society Foundations. The organisation’s vision is for a just, equitable and inclusive South Africa, where the rights enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution are protected and realised. OSF-SA seeks to utilise its assets and resources to empower people to actively participate in the democratic process through its grantmaking, advocacy, convening, research and communications roles; and to help the public, private and civil society sectors work together to advance socioeconomic progress