On my day-to-day commute I bypass a number of painted murals, some of them beautify the concrete walls and others comment on social and political issues that are pertinent to out times. Thousands of images are exhibited across the cityscape of Cape Town, where each painting is a form of creativity, imagination and self-expression.
The other day I was walking through the East city Precinct – a detour from by usual route – and spotted a massive mural on the corner of Commercial and Plein street. The painting depicted a young man holding a dead dove in his hands and inscribed across his chest was the caption, “Our Gentle Hearts.”
After Googling the caption, I discovered that it was fashioned upon this building by a South African artist named Freddie Sam. He describes himself as a creative activist, hoping to bring about social change through his poignant murals. He states in an interview with CNN, that: “The nice thing about public art is, it actually translates into a language and people can be affected by it and respond to it and give their opinion, and usually their opinion is very positive.”
In the Mural, “Our Gentle Hearts” Freddie Sam provides the viewer with a “message [that] not only speaks to the students who are denied education but also those in power all over the world who are ignorant to the reality that we are all interconnected and we are all one. Everything is interconnected; when we awaken to this, a true freedom and peace can arise. May all be free from suffering, may all be free from ignorance and may all be happy.”
When one looks at the painting, the viewers eyes are instantly drawn to the dead dove in the young mans hands. Doves which are usually representations of love, peace or messengers, is now depicted as lifeless. The death of the dove, seemingly represents South African violence. This coincides even more when one looks at the artworks date and location, something that becomes very significant. The Mural was erected in November 2015, a time when the #FeesMustFall protest spread across the country and the location is only a couple of blocks away from Parliament. In Mid-October 2015, roughly 5,000 UCT students protested at the gates. I remember that day. Particularly the moment the police let off the first stun grenade. It was so disorientating, deafening, and distressing. Screams reverberated and I stood frozen. Thousands of footsteps ricocheted off the tar as they ran, ran towards me. My sister tugged at my hand, pulling me down the street and then the adrenaline pumped furiously through my system, heart hammering against my ribcage and the beat of it drumming in my ears.
When I saw this mural, it not only reminded me of the day when thousands of students connected, becoming one unit, to fight something that was unjust but reminded me of how a painting can evoke such powerful emotions.