The city of Durban has shown renewed interest in art, says artist Andries Botha, whose on-off-on elephant sculpture work looks set to finally transform the N3 entrance to the CBD.
Four years after his grand steel-and-stone elephants were shot down by an eThekwini politician, he was back on site this week, carrying on where he had left off.
The city this week gave the go-ahead for the sculptures, on the N3 at Warwick Triangle, at a cost of R1.4 million.
Botha has begun reassembling the three elephant sculptures – one had been destroyed by vandals, while the other two were partly damaged. On Wednesday he added another – one more than he was commissioned to build in 2009 before the 2010 World Cup.
He was ordered to stop work in February 2009 when an ANC politician decided the sculptures looked too much like the IFP’s logo.
For safety reasons, Botha built the metal frame of the new elephant in his workshop and transported it to the site. He said the fourth elephant was in line with the original concept and design.
“The fourth elephant… will be free-standing and rise from the ground. It will be surrounded by three elephants (emerging from) the ground in different poses. (The sculpture symbolises) the rebirth of elephants. Historically, elephants roamed this area before they were killed by hunters.”
Botha said he would have to rebuild the damaged sculptures and replace some of the stolen metal. He also needed to buy more rocks.
“Part of the money was paid last week by the city to help me get the project off the ground. Normally, you would be paid on completion of the work, but in this case I had evidence that I had already made two of the elephants.”
On Wednesday, Botha and his team – Sbu Mazibukho, Siya Madlala, and Ernest Ngcobo – had put up the fourth elephant and began placing rocks inside them.
eThekwini Municipality spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa,
confirmed that the dispute between all parties had been resolved.
Mthethwa said a security guard would be deployed and a surveillance camera installed on site during the four-month construction period.
When completed, the elephants will be signed over to the city’s Libraries and Heritage Department.
Botha said he hoped the city would embrace the sculptures for what they are intended to be.
“It is a positive step forward. The city has shown its renewed interest in art and I hope it engages with other artists to beautify our city spaces. The city must market itself and its artworks in the tourism industry.”
He said the elephants could form part of an educational programme for children, or cultural and art tours.
“This (the sculpture) has wildlife, religious and cultural significance. Elephants are endangered, so it is also a conservation symbol.”
The elephants should be completed by mid-December, depending on the weather and availability of material, Botha said.