The #NotACrime global street art campaign teamed up with curators and street artists in New York City, as well as in Brazil, South Africa, and Australia, to produce murals highlighting the denial of higher education to Iran's Baha'i religious minority.
IranWire's new series featuring the artists and their murals will continue over the coming months as the #NotACrime project spreads to more cities around the world.
Johannesburg's Visual Democracy
Inspired by #Johannesburg street vendors/traders and the South African public art scene, artists Wesley Pepper and Andrew Whispa join the #NotACrime movement.In collaboration with The Open City Project - Mzansi Str-Art.Posted by Education Is Not a Crime on Thursday, 26 November 2015
Two South African artists, Andrew Whispa and Wesley Pepper, worked with the local Baha’i community to stage a “street hustle” in advance of a new Johannesburg mural for the global #NotACrime street art campaign. The hustle was conducted over some of the city’s busiest streets and involved hand-painted signs directing passers-by to the campaign website and announcing the coming of a new mural. Whispa and Pepper got involved to support the right of Iranian Baha’is to access higher education.
“What inspired us to get involved in the campaign,” Pepper said, “is its social-political stance. Our work fits right into it.”
“A lot of the ethic our work aligns very deeply with the concepts of education in Iran and how people are educating themselves directly, and creating their own schools, and creating structures that are outside of the state,” Whispa added, referring to the the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, the “underground university” run by the Iranian Baha’i community.
Both artists also said that the South African experience – whether it was the apartheid system that ended 20 years ago, or more recent debates about the affordability of education – informed their artwork and their participation in the #NotACrime campaign.
Following the street hustle, work started on the mural on Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road, Parktown, which was in keeping with the theme of street hustlers. The mural itself was a comment on the street hustle – depicting people holding up placards with the campaign hashtag and website. Whispa and Pepper, who are both South Africans, ensured that their design matched the local neighbourhood and complemented nearby murals.
Explaining their involvement in the campaign, Whispa and Pepper, said: “Art has the strength to make reality say what it would not have been able to say by itself or what it might have left unsaid.” The pair also run The Open City Project, which deals with direct democracy and re-imagining public spaces by discussing relevant social themes that affect South Africans, creating a dialogue between the viewer and the art.
“The #NotACrime campaign and its awareness of the plight of the Baha'is in Iran is the perfect extension of our project,” they added. “In contemporary South Africa we are bombarded with so many social injustices and rhetoric that we seem to only pay attention to our own issues rather than the rest of the world. ... The art speaks a lot about a world that we imagine and desire, about what we dream the world could be ... us working on the streets is something that anybody could do. It opens up the streets as a place where visual democracy is happening.”
The mural received considerable interest from passers-by and its creation was documented in a short video that can be seen on the campaign’s Facebook page.