Artwork that depicts the old and new South African flags was removed from Durban’s Botanic Gardens after an order by parks, recreation and culture head Thembinkosi Ngcobo. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng and Gcina Ndwalane African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - The artist behind the South African flags artwork which was taken down from the wall at the Durban Botanic Gardens this week, says she is saddened that the work has been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

“It is sad that some people do not understand it,” said Camille Cronje-Honiball yesterday.

She added that it was possible the misunderstanding arose because the original plaque next to the piece was no longer there. The plaque gave a detailed explanation of the thinking behind the artwork.

The artwork was taken down by municipal workers this week after an outcry from some sections of society, including the KZN ANC Youth League which had threatened to take it down if it remained there.

Earlier this week, the eThekwini Municipality’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture head, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, said he gave the instruction for the piece to be removed after receiving numerous complaints about it, and said protocol had not been followed when the artwork was put up.

Cronje-Honiball was yet to decide what would happen to the sculpture, which took her about six months to plan, weld and paint. It took another week to assemble it at the Botanic Gardens.

She said the sculpture was a positive commentary on the South African society.

She had painted the old flag on vertical strips of white granite. The white granite is called Edelweiss, which in German means pure or noble white.

The new flag was painted on black granite strips. The black and white granite was meant to portray positive racial interaction.

“If we learn from nature, black and white could create a harmonious rainbow nation - the pot of precious gold at the end of Mandela’s rainbow,” she said.

The sculpture was one of two works Cronje-Honiball had entered in a competition hosted by the Botanical Gardens in 1998.

It was welded at the then Iscor Training Centre in Newcastle, where the artist lives. The pieces had to be transported to Durban.

She recalls how during the competition, 33 sculptures were displayed. Only the two winning sculptures were to receive prize money and remain at the gardens. While hers did not win, it remained there at the wall for 20 years.

“It actually belongs to me. There was nothing ever official to say they were buying it,” she said.

She had been delighted to learn that, over the years, it was used to teach schoolchildren about the country’s history.

The artist believed one of the options that could be explored was to paint something else on the side of the old flag, or paint it white.

She was, however, happy that the piece was taken down by the municipality and was not vandalised.

Approached for comment, history Professor Jabulani Maphalala said symbols that represented apartheid should not be destroyed but could be used to educate the younger generations.

“You use such things, be it the old flag or the statues, to educate the children about the past and even the bad that those symbols represented.”

Maphalala said he felt emotions were running high about such matters because the country was yet to achieve social cohesion.

“We need to hold conferences and attend to these things in a scientific manner because by doing so you remove all the emotions,” he said.

The Mercury