If you’re clued up on South Africa’s graffiti scene, you’ll know we have a variety of artists, crews, collectives, and styles spread across the country. From Cape Town’s prevalent street art and mural scene, Durban’s close knit and dedicated community of artists, and Johannesburg’s gritty bombing scene, SA has no shortage of talent.
There is however a marked lack of women in the local graffiti community. Graffiti writing and street art is still very much a boy’s club in SA and although the art form has come to be less of a hyper masculine activity over the years, the odds remain stacked against women.
We took the time to find a few of the women graffiti writers who’ve made a name for themselves through the concrete canvases of the country. Some are brand new to the scene, while others have since put their cans down for good, but each artist has played an important part in creating a more inclusive space for women writers across the country.
Star is a Jozi based writer who’s garnering quite a name for herself. Although she puts up the occasional throwup or quick piece, her talent lies largely in her characters and mural work. Star is a prolific writer, with work from Jo’burg to Swaziland, Drakensburg and more. Using feminine portraits and figures as inspiration, her work is a striking blend of colour, abstract composition and intricate pattern work.
Motel 7 doesn’t paint anymore, but for a good few years she was one of the biggest names on the scene. A Cape Town based artist, her murals stretched across the entire city. Her lettering style was ever innovative while her characters ranged from quirky ice cream cones to geriatric potatoes. Outside of pieces and murals, Motel 7 also ventured into graffiti style design on skateboards, canvases and more. Certainly, she was a trailblazer in the graffiti community.
Opia takes her name from a psychologically driven word to describe the sensation of being simultaneously vulnerable and invasive when looking into someone’s eyes. Similarly, the Jo’burg based artist incorporates eyes in all of her work, both her fine art pieces and her public murals. When sketching, Opia always begins by drawing an eye and subsequently works the piece into various characters, shapes and occasional lettering, all heavily surrealist and abstract in style.
Daisy started writing a few years back and while her work seems to have fallen a little quiet, her pieces live on through various walls and surfaces. Moving between spraycans and paintbrushes, Daisy is known for her stark black and grey characters, often strong and striking in their appearance. Like many graffiti writers and mural artists, Daisy believes in sparking a certain dialogue between built structures and the public community, and often incorporates messages into her work through stencils.
Nard’s one of the more well-known writers on the Cape Town scene. Coming into graffiti by way of the b-boy scene, the artist initially enjoyed graffiti for the rebellion and excitement it offered. Nowadays Nardstar’s dropped the illegal side of things to paint mostly commissioned pieces and murals. Her work is characterised by animals of all kinds, strong geometric elements, bold colour, and the type of line work you can only get from emptying out many a spraycan. Besides having work up all over SA, she’s also painted extensively across the US.
Surely you know Faith 47’s work. If you haven’t seen it online, you would’ve seen it in the streets or the gallery space, and with her tendency to travel, you wouldn’t even have to be South African to have seen her work. Faith’s originally from Cape Town where she used to practice more traditional graffiti lettering and characters before getting into complex stencil and mural work. Now of course, Faith’s work spans entire buildings, multimedia visual works, installation pieces and more.