Cape Town’s International Public Art Festival (IPAF)

I attended the International Public Art Festival in 2020 before the pandemic hit Cape Town. It’s one of the last events I attended. I’m a huge fan of street murals because it makes art accessible to everyone, it’s free to view and uplifts communities. I worked in Woodstock, Cape Town at the time my office building was right between the border of Salt River and Woodstock. Both areas are well known for their vibrant murals. And I often spotted murals walking to and from work. I was taking the bus at the time.

A beautiful mural of families in Salt River

There’s murals mostly in Observatory, Woodstock and Salt River. You will find a few in the CBD but the rest of Cape Town doesn’t have as much murals. So I did some research on murals in South Africa and Cape Town. I found lots of information. I will share some of the links I read at the end of this post.

And that’s when I found out about BAZ Art, it’s an NGO which seeks to use art to connect and uplift communities. They build partnerships between local residents, communities, businesses and artists. The key is to use sustainable development to identify opportunities and then build up the skills, knowledge, training , experience etc. needed to help individuals benefit from these opportunities. For example in Salt River there are many open pieces of neglected land, strewn with piles of rubbish. BAZ Art has partnered with other NGO’s and community members to turn those abandoned rubbish heaps into gardens, and playgrounds.

From rubbish to this

The IPAF is an annual event where both local and international artists paint murals around Salt River. Each year there’s a different theme and each theme is linked to the aims of BAZ Art. The event includes free guided tours of the murals and the tour guides are very knowledgeable. My guide spoke about the murals, the artists, the organisation and the history of the community. It’s not just about the art. I remember her pointing out the mural of a pangolin by the Belgian artist ROA and her saying how much she admires his work. She also spoke about how Salt River became economically depressed due to globalisation forcing clothing and other textile factories in the area to close down. Cheaper imports from China made South African garment workers obsolete. The community suffered from high unemployment rates, which led to increased crime, abuse, drug dependency and gangsterism. NGOs like BAZ Art help rebuild the community by employing locals to be tour guides and to maintain gardens as well as playgrounds.

IPAF 2021 was very different. It was self-guided given that Covid came along and wrecked everything. The event continued nonetheless. This time I chose not to attend. All Covid protocols were adhered to but I just felt better staying in doors for this one. Hopefully things will be better soon and I will get to go to the next IPAF.

This year I chose to look at previous videos here:

The website:

I follow the IPAF on Instagram:

More information about murals in South Africa:

Thank you for reading and let me know what you think in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions about this article or about blogging, Cape Town or South Africa in general please don’t hesitate to ask.