Johannesburg, South Africa is a city with a long, complicated, and varied history. As the country’s capital in various regards throughout the country’s history, it has been everything from a lightning rod for troubled race relations to the host of international sports competitions. It has been the site of a country divided and a country trying to come together. It should come as no surprise that the city is not only famous for its history, but that this history has long informed its local art scene, including in the streets and in the galleries.
The City of Gold Urban Art Festival is a weeklong art festival that seeks to celebrate the many artistic endeavours that have happened and are happening in Johannesburg, from the many artists working on murals in the city to the filmmakers who have come to call the area their home. Originally started in 2011, the festival celebrated its fifth anniversary this past October. The festival proved to be its most successful yet, bringing artists and spectators from all over the country, and even some from around the world. Put on last year by Grayscale Concepts, the festival is showing people a whole new side of what Johannesburg has to offer.
The City of Gold Festival, according to their website, seeks to “establish Johannesburg as a destination for graffiti and street artists from around the world and assist the development of the local graffiti/street art community. In addition to this the festival seeks to highlight the positive aspects of this art form as well as involving the general public to create a heightened awareness and appreciation for it.”
To create this buzz and show off the art scene in Johannesburg, the festival has three major components. The first is the murals themselves, which are made in designated spots throughout the city and created by teams of local and international artists. The second is the film screenings, which are done in various theatres and venues in the city and focus on art and South Africa. The third and final aspect is the walking tours, which physically take people to the art that’s currently happening in Johannesburg. And while those above the equator may think of October as a strange time to host a street walking tours, locals know that October is springtime for South Africa.
The walking tours are an especially important aspect of the City of Gold Festival, which is deeply dedicated to highlighting the many areas of Johannesburg that are often left forgotten and abandoned by those who do not live in the neighbourhoods. By taking people to these oft-ignored areas, people can see the impact art can have on a city, and why art projects are an important aspect of urbanization.
The City of Gold Art Festival is an excellent example of how art can celebrate not only amazing and talented artists, but the areas in which this art is located. By bringing the city and its art together, the festival can give people a better appreciation of the local art scene and the city.