In October 2011 Cape Town was named World Design Capital for the year 2014. The sought after award was handed to the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille who accepted the award on behalf of all African Cities as well as Cape Town with the words: ”A city belongs to its people and it must be designed for and with them and their communities. “
Starting with a particularly controversial example, the famous or infamous rock art or stacking stones at Kommetjie Beach. Last year someone started selecting and balancing rounded beach boulders in a thoughtful and artistic way to create the Stacking Stone Statues at Kommetjie. For a short while stone stacking at Kommetjie was almost a craze with over 200 of the balancing stone pyramids reforming the local seascape. Certainly most could not be called art and some were so unstable as to be dangerous. Some people and the authorities responded to what most of us think is harmless creative fun as if it were the worst form of graffiti tagging. The authorities banned and then toppled the stacked stone statues, but I am happy that a few of the artistic ones have remained – or reappeared! `The Sunset Kiss’ (see photo) set in stone until the next storm tide is wonderfully expressive and a simple reminder to live life now.
Moving to Muizenberg beachfront and up in terms of artistic merit is the example of the popular and wonderfully creative Koi Fish Mural at Surfer’s Corner. The mural created by internationally renowned Brazilian artist, Binho Ribeiro, is painted on the seawall of the beachfront toilets. It is a beautiful and tasteful example of a community initiative which adds
interest to a popular holiday and public recreation area. To follow on from the logic of Mayor de Lille’s own words, it demonstrates how a community is involving itself in the design of the urban environment. Yet the organizers of the muralwere slapped with threats of a fine and an instruction to remove the mural. A public outcry, a petition and lots of negotiating by the organizer Shani Judes of SJ Artists and her team resulted in the Heritage Council withdrawing the fine and granting permission for the koi fish mural to stay. Whew!! That’s enough drama to scare off everyone except graffiti taggers who do not contribute positively to the aesthetics of our City.
The photo on the LHS comes from Shani’s website www.sjartists.co.za.
Sadly the third example, a sculpture, was not even `up’ long enough for most locals to see. The enigmatic wooden fisherman that arrived mysteriously at the end of the Kalk Bay harbour wall in November 2011 was not permitted to stay. For those of you who did not see Takhaar, it is a 2.5m wooden sculpture created by local sculptor and craftsman Jaap Pieterse, a beautifully rugged and different work of art. Takhaar is Afrikaans for unkempt hair. The sculpture’s long flowing Viking-like beard was made from kelp for an authentic weathered man-of-the-sea look and an element of fun.
While Takhaar stood next to the Red Lighthouse, with fishing rod pointing seaward, a gnarled hand on the reel testing the weight of an imaginary fish, the harbour authorities contemplated what to do about it. Reaction from locals and visitors was inevitably varied. Everyone I spoke to found it delightful. Apparently some complained that the sculpture interfered with the photo opportunities of the historical Red Lighthouse. A fisherman confessed to enjoying the company and having someone to talk to in the early hours. The Kalk Bay Harbour Master smiled when she recounted how once when she asked everyone to leave the harbour wall because of big waves breaking over it, one person refused until `the guy’ still standing on the far end also left.
Kalk Bay Harbour is a popular tourist destination and a favourite spot for locals, but according to the authorities it is first and foremost a commercial fishing harbour. Art gets no special dispensation here!!! Takhaar either had to pay rent for the space he occupied or leave. In January 2012, Jaap relocated the sculpture that had delighted so many people back to his garden. He is looking for somewhere else in a public area, ideally in Kalk Bay, but essentially somewhere with a connection to the sea to reposition Takhaar. He received a sponsorship from a Kalk Bay businessperson “who believes in his work “ to produce Takhaar and The Pointer, an elfin figurine also of wood that sat atop a building in Main Road Kalk Bay pointing toward the Harbour. Jaap Pieterse’s sculptures are genuine works of art – the photos speak for themselves. But to continue the work he loves and does so well, creating enigmatic figures from wood which would enrich our public places, he needs commissions.
Our communities are so much richer, interesting and exciting when they include murals, sculptures, landscape art etc that help to express who we are or are simply fun elements in an otherwise function-orientated built environment. We need our authorities to allocate places for genuine art as well as sponsors to support local artists. Surely the measure of a truly wealthy community is the degree of interest in and support for their artists and their art. How do we realize the creative potential in our communities so that the Scenic South Peninsula is a real part of the Design Capital of the World?
Send us examples of public or street art in the Far South that contribute positively or comment below.
For an article on Jaap Pieterese and his artistic wife Melanie see