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Now Shaka statue must go

Published Jun 2, 2010


By Sipho Khumalo

Political Staff

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King Shaka looks more like a herdboy than the fierce hunter-warrior of Zulu folklore.

This is King Goodwill Zwelithini and the KwaZulu-Natal government's opinion of the R3 million statue of Shaka at the newly opened King Shaka International Airport.

So the statue, a work by renowned sculptor Andries Botha, is to be removed today because the king and others have expressed reservations about its features and its location at the airport. The work has Shaka surrounded by Nguni cattle and without the spear and shield he is traditionally depicted as carrying.

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The king viewed the statue when the airport opened on May 8, but recently returned with senior Zulu princes to have a second look.

Zulu royal house spokesman Prince Mbonisi Zulu said the king had met Premier Zweli Mkhize about the issue and the two were to discuss it further.

Mkhize said there had been "debate" about Shaka's features.

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"We had a debate with the king and the royal house. The king is happy with the cattle, but said we should maybe change the location. Some are saying the statue should be 50m high, but this is an airport."

Mkhize said some wanted Shaka depicted with wild animals, as he was known for hunting elephants.

One of the problems was that people had different images of Shaka.

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"King Shaka was a warrior, strategist and a planner. Sometimes he left his shield and was also a breeder. He did not always carry his shield and spear," Mkhize said.

However, some people had difficulty with the image of an unarmed Shaka. "They are questioning what it means if he puts his shield down. Is it a surrender?"

To resolve the issue, the government would put together a team of academics who would take all the matters into consideration and come up with a concept.

"We will take down the current statue, get teams to remodel it. Whether it will have a spear and a shield or not, that will be at the end of the process," Mkhize said.

Botha, who is engaged in another controversy over his statues of elephants in Durban, said he was unable to comment because he was bound by contractual obligations.

His elephant sculptures have been rejected by ANC councillors in the eThekwini municipality who say the animals represent their rivals, the IFP.

Internationally acclaimed artist Andrew Verster said Botha would not have embarked on the project without fully consulting everyone concerned.

This would have included those commissioning it, the family, politicians and those involved in protocol.

"At each stage of the making - from drawings, to maquettes, to the full-sized work in clay, everyone concerned would have been shown the progress. Changes could have been made at any of these stages. And I am certain that (Botha) would not have deviated from this for this commission," Verster said.

"It is ridiculous to ask for changes when the work is done. It also shows a complete lack of understanding of the process. Those who know nothing of art are dangerous critics. This is a superb work, majestic in its attitude, warm in its personality and inspired and inspiring."

Dube Trade Port CEO Rohan Persad said the government-owned company would follow Mkhize's directive.

"The King Shaka statue will be removed (today). A decision on how to take this process forward will be handled by the provincial government, the Zulu royal household and other stakeholders," he said.

"When we commissioned the statue, we wanted it to form part of giving the airport development an identity. Dube Trade Port led the process of getting the airport named King Shaka International, and we wanted to build on that... We gave the sculptor artistic licence, because nobody knows what King Shaka looked like."

Mkhize said a statue of Langalibalele Dube, founding ANC president, would be installed at the Trade Port, named after him. - Additional reporting by Tania Broughton and Suren Naidoo

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