CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - South Africa has held its annual International Public Arts Festival (IPAF), despite the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures. Turnout was low but those attending welcomed the street festival, held Feb. 10-14, as a chance to get out of the house.
Scores of people attended the IPAF's opening in Cape Town this month – even though South Africa has been the country worst hit on the African continent by the coronavirus pandemic.
The annual street arts festival strictly followed the government’s COVID-19 rules, including no groups larger than 50 people – said one of the organizers, Alexandre Tilmas.
“The best way was to split people. Because we are painting outdoors, and the artists are outdoors, every guest that want[s] to visit us, we put them in tiny little groups and send them [to] visit the neighborhood.”
The artists changed the landscape in the Salt River neighborhood, a former industrial area made famous by the colorful murals.
The five-year-old festival usually attracts artists from abroad.
But this year, because of the pandemic’s travel restrictions, just two showed up to create their murals.
Despite the low turnout, festivals like the IPAF should be held to boost South Africa’s struggling tourism sector, said tour guide Analisa Zigana.
“You know, you need to sanitize, we need to keep our social distance. If we keep to those regulations, then I think it’s still okay. So, we can continue with the festivals but, just make sure that we keep to the regulations, Zigana said.
The World Travel Awards has voted Cape Town Africa’s leading festival and event destination for the last three years.
But the tourism sector also is suffering amid the pandemic and Cape Town cancelled all big events again this year.
Nonetheless, festival attendees like Laeti Maboang welcomed the break from pandemic lockdown measures aimed at preventing the virus from spreading.
“The fact that it’s still happening even [when] the pandemic is still going on. And I feel like we are in need of this, we are in need of being out, interacting with people; even we have the mask,” Maboang said.
South Africa a year ago enacted one of the severest lockdowns worldwide, with restrictions on gatherings, movement, and sales of alcohol.
The country has registered the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent with nearly 1.5 million infections and more than 48,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.
This year’s festival displayed more than 100 murals and focused on three points: creativity, sustainability and safety.