Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
4 minute read
1 Sep 2021
3:45 pm

Street art tours: Festival helps tour guides get back on their feet

Renate Engelbrecht

The tourism industry is one of the industries in South Africa and the world that has been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.

IPAF's Salt River street art tours helped tour guides get back on their feet. Image: Supplied

The tourism industry is one of the industries in South Africa and the world that has been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Still, the International Public Art Festival (IPAF) that took place in February this year brought hope in a time when tour guides thought there was none. The IPAF’s street art tours performed incredibly well and simultaneously provided a platform for guides to work from and earn an income for months to come.

Adapting to the times

According to Dennis Molewa, social media coordinator at Baz-Art and the host of the IPAF, 2021 was business “unusual”. They realised South Africans were looking for safe, outdoor activities to engage in amidst the strict Covid-19 restrictions and protocols, and that their 2021 model needed to be reimagined.

The new model evolved into one that was not only Covid-19 compliant, but also one that provided as much employment as possible. They introduced a walk-through event that took small groups through immersive artworks, with tour guides available to provide additional insights about the art and the area.

“We see ourselves as facilitators and connectors that bring different stakeholders in the industry together. The IPAF was an example of this in action,” says Molewa.

Street art tours were conceptualised – tours that promoted the work of local and international artists, which evidently created critical work for tour guides – many of whom haven’t received any form of income in almost two years.

Although the IPAF did not benefit financially from these tours, they gained a whole community of local tour guides, eager to share their knowledge.

“Having the guides on hand to explain the art in more detail gave people a deeper appreciation for street art as an intellectual and legitimate art form,” says Molewa.

Baz-Art Street Art Tour
Street art tour in Salt River. Picture: Supplied

Street art tours

Salt River’s street art tours have been organised in a way for people to feel safe, with groups being rather small and made up of households.

Profits from tours that come through the Baz-Art website goes directly to the guides, along with tips, which has created an entrepreneurial opportunity for the tour guide community. Apart from that, people are now also able to visit Salt River in a whole new, refreshing and enlightening way.

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Cleverly helping others

According to Jehaad Masoed, who is a local resident, Trans Tours Travel guide in Salt River and one of the IPAF 2021 guides, he relished the opportunity to do a tour in his neighbourhood.

“For many years my tours focused on the Garden Route and other Cape Town attractions… I’ve always seen the street art in my neighbourhood and wanted to include it in my tours, so the pandemic and IPAF finally made that happen.”

The festival allowed Masoed to make money during a pandemic.

“It gave us hope and what I loved was meeting so many experienced tour guides – their knowledge was inspiring. We grew close like a family and learnt new things together.”

He says people visiting Salt River were amazed at what the neighbourhood has to offer and some didn’t even know the area – a Cape Town suburb close to Table Bay – existed. Masoed says pensioners living in the area barely have money to make ends meet, let alone paint their houses, which is why he believes they appreciate the art on their homes.

Street art tours by Baz-Art and IPAF
Baz-Art and the IPAF’s street art tours brought hope to local tour guides. Picture: Supplied

IPAF guide, Shelley Mileham – who is also a tour guide at Cape Fusion Tours, says she went from hero to zero, with no income for more than 61 weeks.

Her savings had almost been depleted amid the pandemic and her financial situation had brought a lot of anxiety into her everyday life.

“You don’t know when it’s going to be over,” she says.

Being locked away for over a year due to Covid-19 was extremely hard on her mental health (as for many others) and the IPAF made her feel alive again and allowed her to connect with a community.

For Mileham, the IPAF was very exciting as she felt someone was thinking of her as tour guide and because she was being included and uplifted. She says as a naturally inquisitive person and a traveller, learning about Salt River and doing the tours were very rewarding.

Although Baz-Art took no profit from the festival, they invested time, labour and money to ensure the tours run smoothly. The reward was to see success for everyone involved. Artists benefited from the exposure, the festival was well-attended and meaningful relationships were formed with local tour guides.