New Knysna street art development project will put local talent back on the map

Judah Square, Knysna – Executive Mayor, Councillor Ricky van Aswegen, took part in a special sod-turning event at the entrance to Judah Square, in Knysna to mark the official launch of the Visit Knysna’s interactive street art development project.

The project, which Knysna Municipality’s Destination Management Plan identified as critical in reasserting and re-establishing the greater Knysna’s position as a creative and artistic hub, will see a series of significant artworks installed at iconic locations around the greater Knysna area.

“This is one of the most exciting projects we have embarked on in recent years. Now, more than ever, we need to be building our tourism offerings. The interactive art installations at view sites and cultural centres will encourage visitors to branch out and explore the entire area and experience the uniqueness and diversity of what we have to offer. More than that, the introduction of an art route linking the installations and promoting the galleries, studios, artists and crafters will provide a platform to reinvigorate this important contributor to our local economy”, enthused the Mayor.

The first of the installations, a 2,5m tall sculpture of a Rastafarian priest, will stand on the mount at the entrance to Judah Square. With his hands posed in the traditional diamond-like gesture – a symbol of the Seal of Solomon – the figure will celebrate the Rastafari oneness with Jah and praise their God, Haile Selassie. The Rastafarian community of Knysna is the largest gathering of Rastas living within one community in South Africa.

Rastafarian local artist, Eugene Lewis came up with the concept in response to the Knysna Art Society’s call for proposals. Under the name Tribal Africa, Eugene handmakes colourful ceramic figurines wearing South African tribal dress to sell at markets, galleries and events around the country. His vision for Judah Square was to create a giant version of his popular Rasta statuettes.

A beautiful sculpture requires a beautiful setting and the broader Judah Square community are coming together to set the stage for the arrival of the towering Rastafari priest. Volunteers will be clearing, levelling and tidying the surrounding area in coming weeks, transforming it into a more accessible and inviting public space.

In a parallel initiative, Visit Knysna and the Knysna Art Society are facilitating the revitalisation of the murals that line the length of Judah Square. Artists and children from Judah Square and the surrounding communities will be restoring the existing paintings, many of which have faded, and creating some new ones. Starting at the entrance to Judah Square, volunteers will work up the road, with the aim of completing the entire mural in time for the 2021 Rastafari Festival in July.

Rasta Brother Maxi describes the project as a “great gift”. “We are hopeful for what this project will do for our community as a whole. We want visitors to know about Judah Square, to want them to come here, stay here, eat here, spend time with us, and learn about our lifestyle and beliefs.”

Colleen Durant of Visit Knysna is thrilled to see 18 months of planning finally come to life. “Even more excitingly, this is just the first of the series of concepts that artists across the greater Knysna are busy working on and that we will be unveiling in coming months. The interactive art route will be supported by a new visitor Arts & Culture route and map, creating awareness for the many talented artists and makers living amongst us.”

Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris concluded: “It is very exciting to see this creative project coming to life. I strongly believe that street art does not only illustrate a sense of creativity and cultural vibrancy, but it is also significant to tourism. With that being said, I hope more and more residents and tourists alike will be encouraged to come and explore the greater Knysna area, engage with the art and all that the designation has on offer.”  

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