Early next morning, Airtime, K8 and Sbu walked into St George’s Mall near the centre of town, carrying canvasses and easels under their arms. It wasn’t a mall in the usual sense, but a closed-off street reserved for street vendors. It was still early, but the mall was already starting to fill with art-and-craft traders setting up their stands, waiters opening the street-side cafes, and the first wave of tourists searching for breakfast and coffee. Around the corner, the sound of drumming came from the buskers starting their first performance of the day.
The crew had spent the night before in K8’s garage finishing as many paintings as they could. K8 and Sbu both had sketchbooks full of pictures that they’d drawn in their spare time, so they chose the best ones and using pencils, oil paints, charcoals and spraypaint, they made large copies on the canvasses.
K8 said that a really good artwork usually took a few days, but she showed them some graffiti tricks to simplify the process and create images that were quick, stylish, and unique.
Sbu had painted three scenes from the street outside his home, using a stencil to make a hard skyline, and then spraying over it lightly to paint an early morning mist. K8 painted scenes of stylised female faces with flying hair that melted into hills. Airtime drew a picture of a DJ spinning disks in front of a crowded dance floor, which he described as “Future Airtime”.
When they’d finished the pictures at 4 am, Sbu and Airtime slept on camping mattresses in K8’s garage. K8 left a note for her parents so they wouldn’t be surprised that Airtime and Sbu were there: Last time the boys had stayed over, her parents had flipped out and kicked them onto the street. They didn’t want that happening again.
Airtime found a good place to set up the pictures on the side of St George’s Mall, in a corner between two buildings. Sbu and K8 unfolded the easels. They put up their two favourite pictures, and rested all the others in a line against the wall.
And they waited.
After ten minutes, a middle-aged American tourist in dark glasses and a khaki jacket came up to them and said, “I’m looking for African art.”
“You’ve come to the right place!” said Airtime. “Cutting edge African art, right here.”
The tourist glanced over their pictures.
“What about wooden masks?” he said.
Airtime laughed. “This isn’t The Lion King!” he said. “This is Cape Town! We make real art here! Look at this stuff! Good, huh?”
Airtime pointed at the pictures again. The tourist shrugged, and walked off towards one of the other vendors who was selling carved wooden giraffes.
Airtime turned back to K8 and Sbu, shaking his head.
“There’s got to be a better way to make money,” he said. “Aren’t there any buildings in town that want graffiti art on their walls? Won’t someone pay us to do a big mural?”
“There’s a new law that says we can’t,” said K8. “You have to fill in forms and show all the people in the area a picture of what you want to do before you do it. It takes months.”
“Why isn’t anything easy? It’s just like the quiz!” Airtime said. “There’s always a catch! There’s always lawyers and forms! Why can’t we do simple things without filling in forms?”
A pair of Metro cops were walking up the street. Airtime’s rant caught their attention.
One of them tapped him on the shoulder.
“Can I see your vendor’s licence?” the cop said.
Airtime turned in surprise.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” he said.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? If you had the skills, what would your masterpiece painting be?