Choosing a colour to paint a wall ranks as one of the most vexing challenges of the suburban era. Perhaps that’s why grey is the go-to palette suggested by paint makers Dulux and Plascon as their "colour of the year" for 2017. It is, undeniably, the colour painted over the former rainbow nation. SA’s economy gurgles down a fetid grey drain and captured state institutions exude a morbid pallor as their patrons habitually use shades of grey — unaccountability — to cloak their maleficent ways. Grey is the colour of the end of the fire, the end of a dream. Grey is when people give up and resign themselves to things gone wrong. The colour sums up the building development orgy under way in Observatory, Cape Town, as an objector neatly pointed out in powerful graffiti. Like nearby Woodstock, Obs is a site of considerable change, where a rash of builder’s cranes scratch away the last inches of available sky. A wall on a new local student housing development (owned by the same dude who bough...

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