Falko One is a street artist. But not your average paint-spraying graffiti machine. Let us explain.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, he got his start in 1988, painting a high school wall in Mitchells Plain, one of the country’s largest townships. That year, of course, was three years before the end of apartheid, South Africa’s countrywide system of institutionalized racism and segregation. So he was clearly spreading his art under different circumstances than most. At the same time, the hip-hop movement was just starting to get its footing—that year, gangsta rap would all but be invented on America’s West Coast by N.W.A., when they put out the groundbreaking album Straight Outta Compton (Mitchells Plain was the so-called “Mecca” of hip hop in the country, according to Falko). He was very much influenced by the music, and it’s made its way into his art ever since (see below; his work almost appears to be sonic).
Falko One is now known as one of the most important (and earliest) street artists in the world, and if you’re lucky enough to track down his paintings—many of which are on the sides of buildings or people’s homes in poorer neighborhoods (he always makes sure it’s OK before letting loose)—you’ll find some of the most awe-inspiring work on the planet.
One of his favorite subjects? Elephants, which take on psychedelic hues like purple, bronze, pink, and baby blue. He’s also known to do caricatures of faces, birds, and the occasional gorilla.
There’s a fairytale ending to this story, of course. He finally got landed major sponsorship bucks from Red Bull, so he’s traveling the world making art for a living. To learn more about the man behind Falko One, click here.
Below, take a look at some of his incredible works of urban art. At the bottom, watch the artist at work in London, England, in a recent video.