Isabel Pinto’s photographs let in the light.
Isabel Pinto’s photographs radiate light. Golden and glowing, they are filled with the light of shared intimacy and spontaneous, joyful moments. Imbued with tenderness and sincerity, Pinto’s subjects reflect the honest and warm way in which she sees the world.
Pinto’s father was an amateur photographer, and she grew up surrounded by beautiful photographs. Her childhood was spent in the abundant landscape of Mozambique, which instilled in her a sense of childlike wonder for beauty and light. “Ever since I can remember, I was very drawn to light and shade and the light twinkling between the shade” she says. “When you are three years old, you can look at a palm tree and the shadows on the floor and you can sit there for hours watching it. I’m still like that today – I get excited by small things.”
Pinto believes that we are all born happy and open, and then, life intervenes and we become more grey. “But somehow, inside of me, because I grew up in Mozambique, I did not become so grey. Even as an adult, I’m still attached to the lighter side of life.”
An anthropologist, Pinto is drawn to the emotional side of human beings and the human themes of identity and belonging. She is fascinated by the diverse cultures in South Africa, and how people build their belonging and identity and become who they are, yet how we are all fundamentally the same.
In her commercial work, Pinto’s images tell a story. She feels the most powerful way to advertise a product is to connect emotionally with the viewer. Her experience has taught her that people either feel something for the product, or they don’t. She is so good at evoking emotions, that she has created campaigns for some of the world’s most prestigious brands.
People are drawn to Pinto’s work because they make the viewer feel good, and remind us of the brighter side of life. “I know that my photos warm the heart,” she says, “because they come from my heart.”
Isabel Pinto is an internationally renowned Fashion, Lifestyle and Advertising photographer. She grew up in Mozambique and currently lives between Lisbon and Cape Town with her three children. Her clients are diverse – from Coca Cola Light, Martini and Nestle, to a campaign for 466/64 – a brand associated with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Her work includes portraiture, high fashion shoots for Vogue and Oscar De La Renta’s new children collection. She shoots celebrities and album covers and has published three books. Photographing people – particularly children and the emotional connection and loving bonds between families, is her artistic passion.
Brief: A Feature On Township Street Art.
“Love how the piece turned out. Beautiful pics!”
– Alix Rose, Editor 10and5.com
“Sam did an incredible job on the township art tours story. First time ever that I haven’t needed to change something that someone has written. Well done Sam, really nicely written and you pulled the whole story together really well.”
– Shani Judes, SJ Artists
In the distance, beautiful swirling, black letters dance across a wall.
As we stand on the side of a dusty road in Khayelitsha – the Western Cape’s largest township – the reflection of the sun glinting off the tin roofs is blinding. In the distance, beautiful swirling, black letters dance across a wall. They proudly proclaim: “The People Shall Share In The Country’s Wealth.”
The juxtaposition of this statement, against a backdrop of extreme poverty, is deeply ironic; more so because of the source that it is quoted from: the South African Freedom Charter.
This dichotomy prompted Juma Mkwela and Shani Judes to create Township Art Tours. Their mission: to shine a light in a stereotypical dark place and that light is public art.
Juma Mkwela moved with his family, from Zimbabwe to South Africa in 2006 . Living in Khayelitsha, Juma has been vital in many projects revolving around art and youth education. During the xenophobic attacks in 2008/9, he was placed in a safe hall in Khayelitsha where he met some volunteers from Lucca Leadership, one of who was Shani Judes, a connector, creator and arts facilitator. Together with her business partner at the time, they started working with Juma in Woodstock, the emerging creative centre of Cape Town.
Juma had been doing walking tours of street art in Woodstock for two years, when collaboration with Creative Cape Town last year, led to a sponsored Khayelitsha mural tour for twenty people and Township Art Tours was born.
Bundled into our mini van, Juma at the helm, we leave early in the morning on a hot summer’s day. We’re a mixed bunch of locals, holiday- makers and a visiting journalist from Germany. The air is filled with the sense of trepidation and anticipation that precedes a new adventure.
Our first stop is IKUSI Primary School, where the shiny, happy faces of school children greet us. We’ve come to view a large, colourful mural by local artist Freddy Sam. Silhouettes of children playing soccer, amidst splashes of purple and bright patterns, cover the small building on the pristine Chris Campbell Memorial Football Field. The mural is complemented by the expanse of green grass and is a striking contrast to the adjacent, monotonous school buildings and concrete playground.
Street art not only beautifies the urban landscape, but also raises awareness of social issues, in a way that is accessible to the community. The bold monotone mural at Makhaza bus terminus is by Freddy Sam and was created to raise awareness about women abuse, rape and domestic violence. Sobering statistics inform us that every 26 seconds, a woman is raped in South Africa. The message hits home even harder when one witnesses the surrounding deserted, barren landscape.
A series of guns painted on the side of a rusty shack with a blue banner asks, “Are you protected?” with the red HIV ribbon above. In a community ravaged by violence, the gun is a symbol of another killer. This is street art with a bigger purpose.
Two vibrant murals highlight water scarcity issues. One by Mak1One for the City of Cape Town water education project, and another a collaboration of many artists, including Indigo, Mak1One, Fuzzy Slippers, Paul Senyol, Andrzej Urbanski, Juma Mkwela, Valentina Argiro and Willard Kambeva and was funded by the Estria foundation.
The afternoon is spent walking through an area that is home to striking street art. A menagerie of animals emerge from corrugated iron ‘walls’ of shacks: eagles, elephants, cheetah and springbok, emblems of South Africa. Painted in a hyper-realistic style, they both stand out and blend into their surroundings. This is not art hanging in a pristine gallery. Weeds, washing, wires, rubbish and burnt out and abandoned cars all envelop the art work. This is the beauty of street art – it exists within, not apart of the community.
Juma brings an air of authenticity to the tour, as this is his community and he knows many of the artists personally. He is happy to engage in philosophical discussions as well as providing hard-hitting facts about the township.
He bridges the gap between us as outsiders; as a resident and artist himself, the feel of the tour is more like a friend showing you around his ‘hood, rather than my personal dread of feeling like I’m in a zoo, gawping at the inhabitants.
My favourite mural is a self-funded art piece by an American artist. Bold, bright shapes are painted on a black background with the beautiful message “One life to live, one love to give.” Hand painted in white and red lettering, the light and energy it emits, lifts the space around it.
Hot, tired and stimulated, we head home. Staring out of the dusty window, with scenes of sprawling Khayalitsha flashing past, I reflect on the day. The intention behind the tour is two-fold. Through the medium of art, Shani and Juma hope to give people an experience of a place they may never go to, thus, perhaps changing their perceptions. The tour aims to show not just street art but a cultural experience of Khayelitsha – a place that is bursting at the seams with life. In turn, Khayelitsha benefits from the beautification that the street art brings, and awareness is raised in the community about social issues, in a way that is clear to understand.
Public art says something about the community. It says: this is who we are; this is what we think; this is where we came from and this is what we want. Township Art Tours hopes to shine a light in Khayelitsha on those hopes and dreams.