POISON CITY

For many years I have been documenting the streets and subcultures of Durban, aka Poison City. I am drawn to flamboyant characters, artists, musicians, performers and all those who disrupt the order of public space with a moment of magic or self-expression. These interventions are often at odds with social norms, laws or perceptions of how people should behave in public. But, in my view, they are the unseen artworks of the city – a splash of graffiti on the wall, a busker dancing at a traffic light or a religious ceremony on an unlikely patch of land. I am also fascinated by forgotten spaces, and the way in which nature fights to reclaim the city. Trees that crack concrete, jungles that hang from windows. Similarly, the informal economy spills out into the streets, sabotaging the capitalist status quo. For me it’s all about an unusual vision of the city. Celebrating the beauty in between the hard urban edges, searching for artful gestures and celebrating ordinary people in their constant struggle to survive and flourish…

Babes | Durban | 2015
Gusheshe Kings | Wentworth, Durban | 2016
Take a closer look – that’s a nine-year-old at the wheel.
Brandon Botha, Durban 2019
“My name is Brandon Botha and I come from Bloemfontein. I moved here because it’s too cold to live on the streets in Bloem. Me and my sister and my son sleep under the pier at North Beach. But these last two weeks have been the worst of my life, sleeping in the rain. And then my son got hit by a car. He’s in Addington Hospital now. I hope he wakes up soon. I got these tattoos when I was 16. We smoked some zol and my friend did them all in one night. But the next day, when I looked in the mirror, I thought to myself ‘Ay there’s something wrong here!’ The tattoo says ‘Ass Bad’… it’s supposed to say ‘Bad Ass’. Anyway, if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s this: you must marry your woman and enjoy every moment with her. I waited 20 years to marry my wife… and then she died of cancer.”
Manji | Durban | 2016
Flip Tricks | KwaMashu, Durban | 2016
Dennis and Buster the Dog, Overlords of Overport | Durban | 2020
Enter the city | Durban | 2018
Gerhard the car guard | South Beach, Durban | 2017
Dragon Tattoo | Durban | 2017
Joe the busker | Durban | 2019
Yawn | Zululand | 2012
Pure as a Lily | Botanic Gardens, Durban | 2019
Yellow brick road | North Beach, Durban | 2017
A pack of hounds | North Beach, Durban | 2016
Senegalese boxers | South Beach, Durban | 2016
Mlu 26 | Durban | 2017
Stowaways | Durban | 2013
Pappa | Pietermaritzburg | 2019
Meet Pappa, one of the most innovative busker/street performers I’ve met in a while. It took him a year to build his ‘Ford Ranger’ bicycle artwork, which he rides around Northdale, a downtown suburb of Pietermaritzburg. “It protects me from the weather, and all the people love my bike,” he says before he heads off into to traffic like it aint no thing.

A baby, a man in a suit, a trolley full of mielies, a feather duster and a ride in a wheelchair | Durban | 2020
Dark City | Durban | 2015
Rasta Khulani | Durban | 2019
Rasta Khulani roams the Durban inner city with a trolley and a boom box playing strictly reggae music. Why? “Because it makes you feel so good,” he says. “I’m working on my solo album. I have five tracks recorded. I hope I can share my music with the world one day.”
tattoos portrait durban
Izzy has the wildest tattoos in Durban town. He moved here from Zimbabwe in 2016 and has been getting laced with ink ever since. He may look thug, but he’s actually the friendliest cat on the (street) corner.
Daddy Cool | Durban | 2016
Jungle window | Durban | 2016
Fruit trollies | Durban | 2020
Panther Symphony | Durban | 2013
A bus driver burns incense in hope of a safe journey.
Patrick the sand sculptor | North Beach, Durban | 2013
Sidewalk surfer, choose waves not crack | Durban | 2011
Snake Man, Muthi Man | Durban | 2012
Beach walkers | New Pier, Durban | 2013
North Beach creatures | Durban | 2015
Steady bomb | Durban | 2017
Big Bad Bug | Durban | 2019
Spice mamma | Victoria Market, Durban | 2016
Open arms | Durban | 2016
This historic mural in Wawrick Triangle depicts Nomkhubulwane – the Zulu goddess of rain, nature and fertility. The ‘Mother Earth’ figure watching over the inner city was painted in 1994 by the Community Mural Project, which included one of the city’s original king mural painters – Thami Jali.
Hot phone, Aromat | Inner city, Durban | 2017
Paint it Gold | Berea, Durban | 2018
Stand Still Boy | Umgeni, Durban | 2011
Granny Goose, howlin’ wind | South Beach, Durban | 2019
No loitering | Point, Durban | 2014
Rubber Man | North Beach, Durban | 20
Babes, all grown up | Durban | 2019
Berea Court, one of Durban’s freshest Art Deco buildings | Durban | 2020

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