BRIGHT oranges, greens, yellows and blues are just some of the vibrant hues artists are using to decorate Rea Vaya stations across the city.

At each station, artists have designed works that are sandblasted on to the glass panels. Each work is specific to the station and its surrounds, as well as the community it serves. And with eight more stations being built for the expanding Bus Rapid Transit routes, more public art is on track for Joburg.

The common brief is to attract passers-by and commuters. The station designs, much like those already installed at operational stations, should all be unique and celebrate the city’s distinctive urban cosmopolitan environment, featuring its people, architecture, colours, shapes, textures and diversity.

Of those stations that passengers are already passing through, the artwork at Chancellor House Station westbound was done by YDA Walt, who says that inspiration was drawn from walking around downtown Joburg streets, looking at the colours, shapes, textures, clothing, products and signage.

“By the dignified form of a man in a herringbone coat and hat. By the eye-blinding pink of the Shangaan woman’s skirt. reavaya_SHANNIN-ANTONOPOLOU
The Old Synagogue Station, by Shannin Antonopaulo, reflects cultural, religious and social aspects of the surrounds

By the swing of easy movement of the OMO lady’s walk, the texture of the baskets strung around the basket seller’s body, by the interesting contrasts of colours and shapes in the plates of fruit and vegetables laid out for sale on the pavements.”
Depictions on other stations include street children, fabrics, the Joburg skyline and even a series of photographs.

A train passing through a landscape is illustrated at the Boomtown Station, showing movement by the train that can be attributed to time lapsing and watching the world pass by.

The new stations are two at the Metro Centre in Braamfontein; one on the Soweto Highway opposite Soccer City in Soweto; two inside the Nasrec transport hub near the Expo Centre, also in Soweto; one along the Soweto Highway close to the Mooki / Main streets intersection, again in Soweto; one on Perth Road opposite Helen Joseph Hospital in Rossmore; and one in Coronationville near the Rahima Moosa Hospital (formerly Coronation Hospital).

All the station artwork was initiated to celebrate the diverse stories that define Joburg, and was commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA). The BRT Station Public Art project is managed and implemented by a consortium consisting of The Trinity Session, Turkis and Urban Works, but the final designs are selected by a group of local artists.

“The brief to the artists was to create a unique experience at each station, while simultaneously aiming for coherence, as each station forms part of a larger system connecting different parts of Johannesburg,” says Lael Bethlehem, the chief executive officer of the JDA.

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Zunelle Cairns, the production assistant at The Trinity Session, says the broad theme or over-arching narrative is one of inter-connectedness between the stations as part of an overall system of travel or movement, as well as between the stations and their immediate environment and the people who live or work there.

With this in mind, the consortium decided that each station would form part of a visually consistent, yet distinctly unique story from one station to the next.

“The artworks programme was not merely an attempt to beautify the stations, but to create something of worth embedded in the very structure of the stations that would engage and pay tribute to those who use it on a daily basis,” says Bethlehem.

Cairns adds: “The City has an inner city regeneration policy that stipulates that a percentage of the overall budget for any development should go towards the upgrading of the public environment. This includes public art.

“Artists were encouraged to draw inspiration from Joburg’s unique identity; however, it was up to each artist to interpret and apply this on his or her terms, and roughly within the context of where his or her station was built.”

Her company, Turkis and Urban Works are sourcing artworks for the new stations. “The selection and commissioning process will take at least another couple of weeks.”