For Shelley Muleham, a 49-year-old self-employed Cape Town tour guide, and Jehaad Masoed, a 36-year old tour guide from Salt River, lockdown had been increasingly tough. Just how tough? Well, no income for 61 weeks tough.
An unlucky hero came in the form of a festival. Namely, the International Public Art Festival (IPAF) and their street art.
Dennis Molewa, the host of IPAF and an NPO specialising in using street art to revitalise inclusive urban spaces – says that the 2021 IPAF was business unusual.
The team decided to draw on the fact that South Africans were seeking outdoor activities in a safe way. Brainstorming, they came up with the idea to introduce a walk-through event that took small groups through immersive artworks, with tour guides available to provide extra insights.
Cue Shelley and Jehaad.
Dennis says, “We conceptualised street art tours that promoted the work of our local and international artists and created critical work for our tour guides, many of whom haven’t received any form of income in almost two years. We didn’t financially benefit, but we gained a whole community of local tour guides. Having the guides on hand to explain the art in more detail gave people a deeper appreciation for street art as an intellectual and legitimate art form.”
Dennis further adds that he was part of the committee that trained the tour guides.
“We teamed up with three neighbours from the area to teach our guides about its history and heritage. We wanted to respectfully immerse ourselves in the community, to truly connect the artworks to the context.”
Jahaad expressed that he relished the opportunity to do a tour in his neighbourhood, “For many years my tours focused on the Garden Route and other Cape Town attractions, etc. I’ve always seen the street art in my neighbourhood and wanted to include it in my tours, so the pandemic and IPAF finally made that happen.
“Visitors were amazed at Salt River. Some weren’t aware the area existed. We incorporated its history into our commentary as part of the IPAF. The paint on the houses in Salt River is peeling off, so I’d rather have the walls graced with captivating murals. Pensioners living in the area barely have enough money to make it through the month, let alone paint their houses. So, I think they appreciate the art on their homes.”
During the pandemic, Jahaad had to turn to staff transportation to survive. The IPAF was something different and allowed him to make money at last.
“It gave us hope and what I loved was meeting so many experienced tour guides – their knowledge was inspiring. We grew close like a family and leant new things together.”
His views are echoed by fellow IPAF guide, Shelley, who said that:
“The IPAF was very exciting because a) someone’s thinking of us, b) someone’s including us and upskilling us.”
“For me it wasn’t really about the money; it’s been a mentally stimulating thing during a very stressful time. Doing what I love – it’s a passion. Imagine being able to talk for a living and then being locked away for over a year… IPAF made me feel alive again and connected with a community.”
All the profits from the tours that come through the Baz-Art website go directly to the guides, along with any tips. This has created an entrepreneurial opportunity for a community of guides. It’s also enabling visitors to explore Salt River in a completely new way.
All in all, the street art tours provided a new opportunity for the tour guides looking to embark on their passions again in an lesser-known, but wonderful pairing.
You can book a tour with Jehaad via Trans Tours Travel.
Shelley can be contacted at Cape Fusion Tours for food and culinary tours.