Durban - While the city dithers over rebuilding the controversial elephant sculptures near Warwick Junction, vandals have struck once again, turning what was to have been a “masterpiece” to ruins.

This time, metal wiring has been removed from the head of one of the two remaining elephants, causing the rock structure inside to fall out.

Sculptor Andries Botha and fellow artists who worked on the project, Sbu Mazibuko, Siya Madlala, and Ernest Ngcobo, visited the site on Monday after being told of the damage.

Mazibuko described the latest act of vandalism as a tragedy.

“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this project. We were committed to creating a masterpiece at the entrance to the city. Now it lies in ruins,” he said.

Accompanying Botha was Professor Carol Becker, a dean at the Columbia University School of the Arts in New York.

Becker, who appeared shocked at the state of the artwork, said the sculptures should have been protected.

“The artist cannot protect his own work. If the city commissioned the piece they should take responsibility,” she said.

“People are doing this out of ignorance. The city should have found a way to communicate with people on grass-roots levels about the importance of art and symbols,” Becker said, adding: “It demoralises the artist. It is a sad situation that I have witnessed here. Artworks revitalise dead spaces all over the world.”

While Botha has reached a settlement with the eThekwini Municipality over the elephant sculptures he was commissioned to build, he has not yet been told when to resume work.

In February, city manager Sbu Sithole told the Daily News that work would start on April 1.

Botha, who said he was waiting for officials to finalise the contract, blamed basic administration issues for the delay. “This is a work of art and despite public attention it remains unguarded. It was paid for by the ratepayers,” he said.

“The city, by a court ruling, agreed to protect them. If the city cannot protect its assets then every art commissioned will be subjected to vandalism. The city must protect its investment. Is our democracy not ready for works of art?”

Botha has been paid almost R800 000 for the project so far.

Work on the sculptures stopped in 2010 after the late eThekwini regional ANC chairman, John Mchunu, said the elephants resembled the symbol of the IFP.

Since then the three elephants, meant to be the pride of the 2010 World Cup, have been targeted by vandals.

“Whoever is doing this will possibly get R15 for the piece of metal,” said Botha. “We built it so it would have a limited financial value to others.

“In the interim we remain confident. We have started work on the replacement sculptures. When we get the go-ahead we will find a way of bringing them here.”

City authorities were approached for comment on Sunday but had yet to respond by the time of publication.

Daily News