Next to a wall surrounding an empty lot in central Johannesburg, a cherry picker carries a man above the street. He is not repairing power lines but instead spray painting a canvas larger than a billboard with portraits of four contemporary South African musicians.

Known as Dbongz, the artist is at the vanguard of a growing movement that has embraced Johannesburg’s grit to create paintings that have helped the once-neglected city centre spring back to life.”(The city) used to be dull, mundane and at the same time dodgy,” said the 32-year-old. “But because of colour, because of these lively murals that we paint, people start seeing it as a place they can go into.”


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