Saturday, 25 January 2014

Exhibition of SA Freedomfighters, National Heritage project

Good Day, my dear fellow lovers of South Africa. My compressed report on a massive project is finally on the hard disk. If I wanted to go into the details of all heroes of the struggle involved, I'd have to write a book, and this is not the space for such a large project. I will let some information and images pass by, and hope you will get a glimpse on the more positive developments of this country.
ENJOY!! (Except from the first introductory one, all other photos are taken by myself and you are free to download them if you wish).


The first of the bronze sculptures displayed in Bloemfontein. Picture: Kobus Robbertze
Presently there is a crowd of figures marching from the garden towards the art museum. These 20 odd bronze figures are part of a brand new heritage site development and the first of about 400 historical figures that will form a chronological procession depicting South Africa’s long march to freedom.

 The project, initiated by the National Heritage Project (NHP) and the brain child of CEO Dali Tambo, is basically the development of a new heritage site in South Africa and one that is very inclusive of all people, races and denominations. The overall idea is something to honour the contributions made by the many South Africans from all of these various cultural groups over the years, right back to Harry die Strandloper to the development of democracy today. The NHP has been trying to get this project off the ground for several years now.

 That which is currently on display at Oliewenhuis is a very small part of this larger project.
 A myriad South African artists were commissioned to create these statues. The first commissions were made in April last year. “We would like to involve as many local artists as possible. The next phase of the project will start middle January when the next 26 statues will be commissioned.” Figures by well-known artists like Angus Taylor, Guy du Toit, Egon Tania and Jean Doyle can be seen at Oliewenhuis.

“Artists get a very tight brief with the commissioning of figures we have been working with academic researchers who researched each individual as well as the period. It is important that the representation is historically correct. It is a piece of art but we have asked the artists for realism in the artistic sense,” Haines adds.
Who will you find in the Oliewenhuis garden? “Because last year was the centenary year of the ANC we have depicted a couple of the founding fathers of the ANC like John Dube, Thomas Mapikela, Sol Plaatje, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, but we also went right back with figures like David Stuurman, Johannes van der Kemp, Olive Schreiner and Swazi Queen Labotsibeni,” Haines says.
Government requested for some of the statues to be exhibited at the National Policy Conference in the city at the end of last year and since their arrival in the City of Roses they have made quite an impression. Haines adds that NHP have a very good relationship with the National Museum in Bloemfontein and since the land intended for the project is not available yet, Oliewenhuis will be home for these statues for possibly the next six months. 

 Because the NHP wanted to launch the project to the public and thought it important for the artists that their work can be seen, Bloemfonteiners now have the chance to view these works of art. “The plan is to do a series of workshops around the statues, do some artist walkabouts, get some school groups to visit them and have an exhibition about the project in February at "Oliewenhuis,”


When all statues will be completed, a sea of 400 realistic, life-size struggle heroes will be depicted in bronze, all in motion and forming a throng as if at a protest march.
Xhosa king Hintsa is mounted on his horse, writer and activist Sol Plaatje is getting on his bicycle, some are holding up placards, others are armed with traditional weapons. All are moving forward.
At the back are figures from the 1600s, including Griqua leader Adam Kok and the Khoi chief David Stuurman.
The parade includes individuals from each region and era. Makhado, Dingane, Bambatha, Charlotte Maxexe, John Dube, Olive Schreiner and Steve Biko are all accounted for.
Right up front are the likes of Helen Suzman, Chris Hani and other recently deceased leaders.
When the time comes,which unfortunately it has, Nelson Mandela will be placed at the head of the procession.

Helping Sol Plaitjies ring his bell...


The 400 figures were selected after a research project undertaken by leading historians and heritage experts.
“When I did a documentary on the history of the ANC, I noticed that many of the historical characters who did heroic things to stop the dispossession of their land, who were the Madibas of their age, were not known today,” said Tambo at his home this week.
“I felt the story needed to be told of this long road that was walked to democracy. Learning about our history gives us a sense of self.”
He adds that South Africa’s existing heritage monuments are still predominantly products of the white experience and the imbalance needs to be addressed.
“In fact, you can go all over the world and you will find incredibly few sculptures of Africans anywhere.”

Forty South African sculptors are working on the project, which is being financed by both public and private funders, and could easily, at market value, run into a figure of R100 million.
Realistic bronze work is traditionally dominated by white artists, but Tambo says he has five black artists working on the project, which has a mentorship programme attached.
“By the end, we will have trained 20 new black sculptors,” he says.
Twenty-five sculptures have already been completed, the first of which were previewed at the ANC’s conference in Mangaung late last year and received positive attention.
Another 25 sculptures are currently being made.
I hope you have enjoyed this African excursion into the past and look forward to reporting again from this fascinating continent,