City life is art

18 Oct

When you think about Johannesburg’s inner city, you wouldn’t automatically think ‘Art Mecca’. Streets buzzing with taxis, people, vendors and errant children, yes, but home to future famous artists? Probably not.
















An artwork by one of the participants of the CICI.
The City of Johannesburg along with the Johannesburg Development Agency is trying to change all that.

Situated near the Johannesburg Art Gallery and across the road from the Great Synagogue on Wolmarans Street, sits a brightly painted building. Its walls are splashed with portraits and murals, along with the words ‘Creative Inner City Initiative’ (CICI)








Administrator and former participant of the CICI, Siphiwe Gama, talks enthusiastically about the CICI bringing “light” to the inner city.
The CICI has been in the Johannesburg CBD since 2002 with the aim to train young artists and equip them with sustainable skills. Talent and skills in performance art, visual art, painting, mosaics, paper making, as well as business and entrepreneurial skills are fostered by the initiative. The training is given for free, and the CICI’s building has become a creative home to young inner city kids.


Recently the CICI in partnership with the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Development Agency allowed people to abseil down Ponte apartment block for R500 in order to raise money for the initiative.

The CICI also hosts exhibitions of works as well as street performances, festivals, carnivals. It has been involved in bringing public art to the city and according to director Carol Liknaitzley, has become “a poverty alleviation success story.”

Administrator Siphiwe Gama, who also trained at the CICI says that the initiative has become a home for “kids who don’t know what to do or don’t have resources.” He says that CICI is trying to create a safe environment out of the inner city, and encourage people to interact with their space again.

Gama says that he turned away from a dangerous lifestyle when the initiative allowed him to discover his artistic side. “I think there was a passion hidden in me that had to be revealed through experimentation in this project.” He says that the CICI gave him a safe environment in which he could be himself and embark on his artistic journey.

Gama is passionate about creating a safer inner city for residents, a place where artists can work and exhibit and where people can interact with their environment.

So now it’s up to the artists to carve their space amongst the bustling businesses and residents of Joubert Park and Jozi’s inner city, leaving their colourful mark on a growing city.






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