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!)