Who’s be­hind all the graf­fiti?

Some tourist at­trac­tions aren’t fea­tured in brochures. Next time you drive through Lüderitz, keep an eye out for the “pix­e­lated mon­sters” spray­painted on walls and build­ings all over town.

Lüderitz res­i­dent Boy Shipanga ap­pears at the door of the cof­fee shop. Pho­tog­ra­pher Sam Rein­ders and I need to get to Aus, where we’re sched­uled to do a Namib dune tour (see story on page 32), but we don’t have a car. For­tu­nately a Face­book ac­quain­tance sent us Boy’s cell­phone num­ber be­fore we left South Africa, in case we needed trans­port.

Within min­utes, Boy has or­gan­ised us a lift to Aus. So now we can re­lax and talk a lit­tle about life in this sea­side town. Boy seems to be quite popular in Lüderitz be­cause sev­eral wait­resses come to say hello and he gets served three bis­cuits with his cof­fee. Maybe this isn’t sur­pris­ing since his sis­ter, Suzan, is the mayor. The two of them are hard at work on the Swapo cam­paign in the run-up to an elec­tion. Ear­lier we saw the rally move through town with me­ga­phones and flags.

Sam shows Boy the pic­tures she took of the Swapo con­voy and some of the graf­fiti we saw at the har­bour and at Agate Beach – a pen­guin dreaming of an ice cream, a girl with ear­phones, a go­rilla think­ing about a ba­nana. All the spray-painted images look “pix­e­lated”, like when you en­large a photo on your com­puter so you can see the in­di­vid­ual blocks that make up the im­age.

“Oh, I know this guy,” says Boy, talk­ing about the graf­fiti artist. “His name is Pixel Mon­ster. He’s com­ing over this af­ter­noon to paint my bus. Want to meet him?”

It’s a month be­fore the elec­tion and Boy’s school bus is an in­te­gral part of the cam­paign con­voy that moves up and down the streets of Lüderitz ev­ery day. But the old bus is a lit­tle faded, so Pixel Mon­ster will dress it up with Lucky Dube lyrics and Swapo slo­gans, all in the party’s blue, green and red colours.

Pixel Mon­ster is orig­i­nally from Spain and he works at the fish fac­tory. In his free time, he wan­ders the streets with spray cans, look­ing for forgotten walls to dec­o­rate. We talk about the pen­guin and go­rilla, only to find out there are about 20 of his works around town. Would we like to go on a tour with the artist?

We pile into the car and Boy puts a Swapo flag on the aerial – there are votes to be can­vassed. The first stop on our im­promptu art route is the sports field at Nau­tilus Sec­ondary School. The words “Beau­ti­ful Namibia” are painted on the Vi­bracrete wall in the colours of the na­tional flag. Nearby, the face of a su­per­hero stares back at me. It’s Boy of course, also known as Cap­tain Africa. Boy gets out of the car and poses proudly with his graf­fiti like­ness.

The ruin of the Lüderitz Golf Club is one of Pixel Mon­ster’s favourite haunts. It’s home to a slew of pix­e­lated faces: one has a thick fringe, an­other sports shiny red lips.

An old, cracked slab of ce­ment out­side the club­house might have been a ten­nis court in an­other era, now it’s a mon­ster so big you can only see it from the sky. (Put GPS: S26.666513 E15.150433 into Google Earth and have a look!)

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