You drive past the same bridge or sun-bleached concrete wall every day. Suddenly, overnight, it comes to life. Sprawling, colourful lettering has been slapped onto it; striking beside the bland, run-down, and litter-strewn train tracks.
South Africa has a wealth of graffiti and street art. Historically, it rose out of the apartheid regime before moving into far reaching cities, onto trains, along railways and spilling onto the streets to be seen by all.
Of course with the arrival of social media, it’s become even easier to follow the work of these artists. Instagram, largely due to its focus on visual content and ability to reach wider markets, has become one of the choice spots for artists to exhibit their work online.
We’ve put together a list of 10 graffiti writers to follow if you’re interested in finding out more about South Africa’s urban art.
Mars | @mars_graffiti
A Johannesburg based writer, Mars has been hailed as the King of South African graffiti. Besides being on the scene for a number of years, he also has work up all over the country—both commissioned pieces and good old fashioned bombing. Mars’ account has everything from characters to intricate handstyles, end to end pieces, and a few action shots. For someone who’s not familiar with the local graffiti scene, Mars’ account is a great place to start.
Bias | @bias
Another Jozi based writer, Bias has work up all over the City of Gold and regularly updates his account. His lettering has incredible flow and his details—from small flairs to detailed drips—are what make a lot of his work stand out. Bias is also a fan of painting secret spots such as the vast concrete canals and underpasses tucked away in the city, which allows you to see the lesser known reaches of Johannesburg.
Falko | @falko1graffiti
Falko is one of South Africa’s graffiti legends and pioneers. Along with artists like Mak1, Gogga, and Coe1, Falko first used graffiti as a weapon of protest, using spray cans to shout back at and dismantle oppressive structures. Nowadays Falko’s doing more commercial work than bombing, but he still uses graffiti as a tool to highlight and uplift communities. His latest project, Once Upon a Town, sees him traveling South Africa and painting towns and small settlements, leaving luminous, detailed elephant characters along the way.
Boeta Phyf | @boetaphyf
Hailing from Cape Town, Boeta Phyf spent a good number of years writing graffiti before he moved to what he does now—creating graffiti inspired woodcuts and sculptures. Inspired by the local graffiti and street art scene, Boeta Phyf’s work combines vibrant colour with a number of different textures and etchings to create tangible words and characters.
Damn Vandal | @thatdamnvandal
Ever wondered if graffiti writers can make a living by writing on walls? Damn Vandal is the answer to that. His earlier days saw him doing a lot of painting under the cloak of the night, but nowadays he mostly creates murals commercially while working as a graphic designer and illustrator. There’s always been debate around whether graffiti and street art should enter the commercial realm or not, but the kind of work The Damn Vandal does and the level of skill with which he does it, has done a lot to decriminalise graffiti in the eyes of the sceptics.
Tapz | @tapzds2015
Tapz has one of the wildest lettering styles out there. He’s painted all of South Africa’s major cities and even put his name up across international borders. He’s a writer who enjoys experimenting with styles, often using his can to emulate interesting textures, realistic characters, and calligraphy style lettering. If you’ve ever wondered what a tag done with a fire extinguisher looks like, you should check out Tapz’s account.
Benjay Crossman | @benjaycrossman
Benjay Crossman is a weird guy, but he knows it. Often painting under the moniker ‘A boy named Veronika’, he creates beautiful portraits of space age characters, multi textured and spotted with his signature UFO tags. Benjay’s currently travelling internationally, leaving his mark wherever he goes. True to his nature, he’s constantly uploading videos of himself painting, talking about what he’ll be painting next, and on occasion, burning a few of his old artworks. If you’re curious what the inside of a graffiti writer’s mind looks like, you need only follow Benjay Crossman.
Rasty Knayles | @rastyknayles
Rasty is another graffiti writer who’s been on the scene for a while. Starting out as just another creative kid with a few spraycans, looking to bring some colour to the world, his career has gone from strength to strength. He still hits up a few secret spots occasionaly, but nowadays he focusses on legal murals and pieces, as well as working full time as a tattoo artist. Often incorporating his tattoo style into his graffiti and vice versa, his account always brings something new.
Skubalisto | @skubalisto
Skubalisto is known for his colourful portraits and murals. By making use of short, sharp lines and a variety of colours, he brings life to spaces that are in desperate need of some brightening up. His work exists in both public and gallery spaces and also focusses on celebrating South African heritage and celebrating the country’s musical greats with murals such as Brenda Fassie and Lucky Dube. He’s a prolific artist so there’s always something new on his Instagram.
Graffiti South Africa | @graffitisouthafrica
If none of these accounts caught your eye, you can always scroll down the Graffiti South Africa account. Run by Cale Waddacor who recently released the Graffiti South Africa book featuring a comprehensive history and collection of local artists, the account keeps you up to date with everything to do with local graffiti and street art. Whether you’re a long-time fan of graffiti, interested in finding out more, or you just have an appreciation for art that lives outside of gallery spaces, you can’t go wrong with checking out Graffiti South Africa.