Public art in South Africa dares people to stop and notice their environment. It breaches boundaries, shifts thinking and encourages debate, while celebrating the cultural diversity that underpins South Africa's identity. South Africa’s public art includes murals, sculptures, mosaics, billboards and performance art.

Did you know?

Every February Cape Town hosts Infecting the City, South Africa’s only dedicated public art festival.

Public art projects in South Africa accommodate new artistic forms, enhance the environment and articulate a mix of traditional and modern ideas. These projects employ a range of forms, including sculptures, billboards, mosaics, murals and performance art.

Often, art in public spaces marks the spot where historically significant events have taken place. Such art often pays tribute to South African icons or raises awareness about social issues.

There are numerous on-going public art projects in a number of cities, involving the creation of both permanent installations and temporary exhibitions.

In Johannesburg, the greatest density of public art is found in the Newtown Cultural Precinct. The 560 carved wooden heads dotted on plinths throughout the area are intended to reflect African diversity, while the Banner of Hope, a steel sculpture of the South African flag in front of the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, celebrates our freedom.

In addition, Clive Van Den Berg's Eland in Braamfontein, William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx’s Firewalker near Park Station and the Vilikazi Street sculptures in Soweto are fast becoming national cultural landmarks.

In Cape Town, there are public artworks at all the Integrated Rapid Transit System (IRTS) stations. At the foreshore end of the city's business district there are a number of sculpted figures depicting street life in Cape Town, with another public art project on Church Square, commemorating the Cape's history of slavery.

In Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay), Route 67 involves the creation of 67 public art works, symbolising Nelson Mandela's years of work dedicated to the freedom of South Africa. While Durban currently has no formal public art policy, works are commissioned and installed in public spaces on an ad hoc basis.

All these projects are complemented by temporary exhibitions, funded by the public or private sector, that make art accessible to all. They bring life back into public spaces, bring prestige to neighbourhoods and stimulate cultural tourism.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Department of Arts and Culture
Tel: +27 (0) 12 441 3144

Newtown Cultural Precinct
Tel: +27 (0) 11 833 4053

Tours to do

The Newtown Heritage Trail is a web-based tool that allows you to navigate the Newtown Cultural Precinct and explore its public artworks. Visit the precinct's website for further information.

Get around

Public art in South Africa's cities is best explored on foot. Contact the relevant city's tourism bureau for maps that detail their artistic landmarks.

What will it cost

By its nature, public art is free.

What's happening

Infecting the City, a public art festival in Cape Town, takes place annually in February.

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