Artist Saype spray paints iconic 'Beyond Walls' frescoes in Cape Town

An aerial view shows a giant land-art fresco by French artist Saype, painted for the 9th step of his worldwide "Beyond Walls" project in Langa township, Cape Town, South Africa January 22, 2021. Valentin Flauraud for Saype/via REUTERS

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - On a sandy patch with tufts of grass in Cape Town's impoverished Philippi shantytown, French artist Saype checks a laminated image before adding details to a huge fresco spray-painted on the ground, part of a global project he hopes will foster unity in an increasingly polarised world.

Guided by wooden pegs, Saype painstakingly builds up the final image of two hands clasping each other's forearms in the windswept corner of an old cement factory and surrounded by a sea of wooden and tin shacks.

In his "Beyond Walls" series, the 31-year-old graffiti artist links street and land art in cities across the world -- often depicting a close-up of two people's hands gripping each other's forearms.

"The idea is to create the biggest human chain, to speak about togetherness and today in Cape Town this is the ninth step of that project," Saype, who was born Guillaume Legros, told Reuters.

"For me it is very interesting to speak about togetherness here, because I think it was a pillar of Mandela's dream," he said of South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, who made his maiden public speech in Cape Town in 1990 after 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid.

Elected South Africa's first Black President in 1994, Mandela tried to foster reconciliation between the white minority and Black majority following years of racial discrimination.

Using a special eco-friendly mixture of chalk, charcoal and water with a milk protein as the glue to allow the paint to adhere to the ground, Saype has also spray-painted his temporary, biodegradable images on lawns from Yamassoukro in Ivory Coast to the Champ de Mars next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Last year, he painted a large evanescent fresco on the lawn of the United Nations' European headquarters in Geneva to mark the 75th anniversary of its founding.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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