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Title: Street art and mural art as visual activism in Durban : 2014 – 2017
Authors: Chapman, Daniel 
Issue Date: 2019
Abstract: This research presents the theories pertaining to the real and imagined role of street art and mural art in current society, focusing on South Africa and Durban. This research also aims to improve my art practice by attempting to apply these theories. By investigating selected activist street and mural artists and movements, I have also aimed at learning from the work of those I admire. By extending my research beyond public two-dimensional art practice into the theories of African cities, cultural studies and white privilege, I have attempted to understand the socio-political factors involved in critical art making in the highly contested post-apartheid public space of Durban. I have discovered that my own belief in the value of street art and mural art in the public space, which this research aims to validate, does not appear to be encouraged or supported within the city of Durban, at large, which is reflected in a stunted street art and mural art culture. Within the context of post-apartheid Durban, a South African city in rapid transition environmentally, socially, economically and culturally, I would like to present street art and mural art as a pragmatic and effective means of cultural response.
In this research a practice-based qualitative methodology was used. This is accompanied by theoretical research to contextualize and inform the art practice. The action research comprised of artwork produced in public spaces. Typically, this process involved identifying an ecological/social/political issue which is the artwork’s subject. The combination of practice- based and action research is the most suitable methodological approach for this study which essentially attempts to uncover knowledge pertaining to the function of mural art and street art in the world, more specifically in Durban.
My findings show that the foremost function of street art and mural art appears to be the transformation of the public space into a more convivial living environment. The major strategies identified in the theoretical framework in attempting to initiate conviviality through street and mural art include site specificity and participation. Despite a history of attempting to democratize art in South Africa, post-apartheid contemporary society still suffers as a result of restricting the functionality of art by continuing to focus predominantly on the gallery and museum systems. I have found that mural and street art potentially align with the informal functioning of much of South Africa’s public space, encouraging an alternative to the western construction of public space.
In conclusion, I argue that street art and mural art can be used as an effective transformative strategy to break down the invisible social barriers present in post-apartheid South African cities, by repurposing the physical barriers of walls.
Description: Submitted in fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Technology in Fine Art, Faculty of Arts & Design, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa. 2019.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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