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When art comes to town: The murals that cover African cities

This article explores the rise of murals in African cities, their ancient history, and their contemporary role. From Johannesburg to Cairo, these works of art transform urban landscapes, tell cultural stories, and address social and political issues. Casablanca and Cotonou feature murals depicting history and national pride, while Johannesburg and Cairo display tributes to Mandela and powerful messages of tolerance. El Seed in Manshiyat Naser, Cairo, symbolizes change and unity within a marginalized community. These murals become cultural pillars and means of expression, promoting tourism and community unity.

From the vibrant streets of Johannesburg to the colorful alleyways of Cairo, African cities are being transformed by murals. These large-scale works of art are adorning buildings, walls, and bridges, bringing life and color to urban spaces. Murals in African cities serve a variety of purposes. One of the reasons why murals are so popular is that they are a relatively inexpensive way to add beauty and vibrancy to urban areas. They are used to raise awareness of social and political issues, while others celebrate local culture and heritage. Whatever their purpose, murals are having a profound impact on African cities. They are attracting tourists, boosting local economies, and creating a sense of community pride.

Murals have a long and rich history in Africa, dating back to ancient times. Some of the earliest known murals in Africa can be found in the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs. Murals were also used by other African cultures to tell stories, celebrate religious beliefs, and document important events. 

For example, the Dogon people of Mali used murals to tell the story of their creation myth. The murals depict the journey of the Dogon people from their celestial home to Earth. The murals of the Ndebele people of South Africa are another example of the long tradition of mural painting in Africa. Ndebele murals are known for their bold colors and geometric patterns. 

They are used to decorate homes and other buildings, and they also have a spiritual significance. In the 20th and 21st centuries, murals have taken on a new significance in Africa. They are now being used to address important social and political issues, such as poverty, inequality, and HIV/AIDS. Murals are also being used to celebrate African culture and heritage.

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca has become a vibrant open-air art gallery, with murals covering the walls of buildings all over the city. From the bustling streets of Burgundy to the winding alleyways of the old medina, these murals tell stories, celebrate culture, and inspire passersby.

Each mural is a unique work of art, reflecting the diversity and creativity of Casablanca's people. Some murals are abstract, with bold colors and geometric patterns. Others are figurative, depicting portraits, landscapes, and scenes from everyday life.

One particularly striking mural can be found on Burgundy Street. It features portraits of the Moroccan national football team, who recently achieved a historic feat by reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The mural captures the excitement and pride of the Moroccan people, and it has become a popular tourist attraction.

Casablanca's murals are more than just works of art. They are also a source of pride and inspiration for the city's residents. They transform urban spaces, making them more colorful and inviting. They also serve as a platform for artists to express themselves and to share their stories with the world.

Cotonou, Benin

The mural in Cotonou, Benin is a truly impressive feat of art and engineering. It is the largest fresco in the world, measuring 1,300 meters long and 10 meters high. The mural was created by a collective of 27 artists from 13 different countries, and it took them over a year to complete. The mural is located in the port of Cotonou, which is one of the busiest ports in West Africa.

The mural depicts a variety of scenes from Benin's history and culture. There are images of traditional dances, ceremonies, and everyday life. The mural also features portraits of some of Benin's most famous historical figures, such as King Ghézo and Queen Hangbé.

The mural is more than just a work of art. It is also a symbol of Benin's growing cultural and economic importance. The mural has been well-received by the people of Benin. Many people see the mural as a symbol of national pride. The mural has also attracted tourists from all over the world.

The Nelson Mandela mural by Shepard Fairey in Johannesburg, South Africa

The Nelson Mandela mural by Shepard Fairey is a 10-storey, 2,174 square feet (202.0 m2) public artwork on Juta Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, created by Shepard Fairey and completed in September 2014. It pays tribute to Nelson Mandela and the 25th anniversary of the Purple Rain Protest. The mural is based on Fairey's iconic "Hope" poster, which was created for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. The mural depicts Mandela in a close-up portrait, with his signature bright white smile and piercing blue eyes. The mural is painted in a bold, colorful style, with shades of red, orange, yellow, and blue. The mural is located in a prominent location in Braamfontein, a vibrant and diverse neighborhood in Johannesburg. It is a popular tourist attraction, and it is also a source of pride for the local community. The mural is a reminder of Mandela's legacy and his fight for equality and justice.

Perception" mural by El Seed in Cairo

Cairo is another African city that is home to a vibrant mural scene. One of the most popular murals in Cairo is The Calligraffiti Mural of Garbage City. 

EL Seed, a French-Tunisian street artist, created a stunning calligraffiti mural in the Manshiyat Naser suburb of Cairo. The mural covers the sides of more than 40 buildings and features a quote from a Coptic Christian bishop: "Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first."

The mural is located in a very poor neighborhood, and eL Seed had to work with limited resources. He also had to overcome the stigma that is often attached to Manshiyat Naser. Despite the challenges, eL Seed was able to create a beautiful and inspiring mural that has made a positive impact on the Manshiyat Naser community. 

The mural is a powerful reminder that we should not judge others too quickly, and that we should always strive to see the best in people and places. Manshiyat Naser is a neighborhood that is often overlooked and stigmatized, but eL Seed's mural is helping to change that. 

The mural has had a positive impact on the Manshiyat Naser community. It has helped to raise awareness of the neighborhood and its people, and it has also inspired a sense of pride and community spirit.

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