Camps Bay’s Victoria Road is scattered with artworks from African artists from all across the continent. On a sunny day, up to 15 of these men merrily promote their paintings on canvas to simply live and work another day.
They originate from Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, and live in outlying townships such as Delft and Mfuleni.
“I’m selling paintings for someone else so I get commission. This I do to put food on my table and to pay rent,” says Duncan Matewele, 38, from Zomba, Malawi.
“I’ve been doing this for four years now. It’s a good opportunity, I’m not causing any trouble, and I’m just wanting to make a living.
“The people here are good to us, especially the tourists, but Covid-19 has caused (us) pain. Sales were better before this happened and we need more tourists for more money.”
Phillip Orton arrived from Zimbabwe in 2016, and agrees with Mr Matewele that the lockdown has had a negative impact on their sales.
“I do this myself; the big paintings take about three days, the small ones less than day. It’s my own work,” says the 24-year old about the paintings that range from 50cm x 60cm to 1.5 meter x 1.5 meter.
“I use acrylic paint on canvas and I paint animals and people that I have seen. So, it’s my imagination plus the experience. I use my hands and I enjoy what I do.”
However, he adds: “It’s hard to sell lately because of the lockdown, but we are here.”
Mr Orton usually takes two taxis from Delft to Camps Bay, but recent taxi violence has forced him and his fellow artists to take three taxis one-way.
“It’s scary using the taxis now but I have to come and sell here. You never know who is here to buy our stuff so I have to make this happen daily, I can’t sit at home and wait, it’s a hustle every day,” says Mr Orton who was forced to drop out of school due to financial constraints.
“As you can see there is competition. It’s good competition, we are brothers here and we know our purpose here. We get along just fine,” he says of working amongst fellow Africans.
“We don’t care where you’re from, Zimbabwe, Congo, we treat each other as brothers because we are here for one purpose,” says Dillan Mera, 21, from Zimbabwe says.
Mr Mera dropped out of high school in his senior year in 2018 owing to financial difficulties. He, too, travelled to South Africa in search of better opportunities.
“People like our art, especially the tourists. I use acrylic paint and oil paint on this canvas. We have this rubber type canvas as well that is flexible,” he says.
“When I got here it was good, really good. But the lockdown has made life tough and now we have this taxi violence that also gets in our way.”
Mr Mera has over 30 pieces of art and a Camps Bay resident offered to store his paintings as travelling to and from the townships with it is a perilous task.
“I got robbed in the township a few times and it’s not nice. A lady that lives here saw that I had less and less painting and I told her what happened. She then offered to keep my paintings for three days a week. It makes my job easier and I’m thankful. The residents here are supportive but we need the tourists,” he adds.
Peter Michaels from Hout Bay says they have amazing talent and hopes that they get the exposure so the world can admire their craft.
“I respect their hustle, they are struggling and they are here doing their best to play a positive role in society,” says the 29-year-old videographer.
“They are so confident and composed and I told him I will buy a piece soon but not now,” says Hayley Barends from Hout Bay.
“I’m definitely coming back for some of this art, it’s so honest. I respect what they doing and they are a good example of what it is to be disciplined, they here to make a living and their artwork are excellent.”
“They create stuff that’s so original and every piece is made with love, you can just see and feel the quality of their art,” says city centre resident Savannah Bains.