Archive: Issue No. 63, November 2002

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Brett Murray

Brett Murray
Installation View, MOBA Gallery, Brussels

Brett Murray/ Tuoi Stefaans Collaboration Wins Convention Centre Commission
by Paul Edmunds

Several weeks after most people knew, and a long time after the original call for proposals, it was announced that a collaborative work by Cape Town's Brett Murray and Scmidstdrift-based Tuoi Stefaans Samcuia had been granted one of the Cape Town International Conventional Centre's lucrative commissions. The work, which has earned the two R400 000 (including production costs), will measure 28 X 7.5 metres. When completed, it will be situated in the main foyer of the Centre.

The awarding of the commission was not without a little controversy. The initial registration forms required entrants to declare their "PDI status", which translated as "Previously Disadvantaged Status". This spurred Beezy Bailey to write to the local paper, Bailey declaring the competition racist. The judges - Neville Dubow, Marilyn Martin, Zola Mtshiza, Revel Fox, Anya van der Merwe/ Miszewski, Laurine Platzky, David Jack, Basil Tommy and Lucien Le Grange - responded that this status would not be relevant to the first round of judging, but that it was merely built into the competition in order that the final pieces be produced in an equitable way.

At the same time, proposals were invited for two smaller spaces in the Centre. Despite a second call for the latter proposals, the judges did not find anything to their satisfaction and this part of the commission is currently on ice. From the initial field of proposals for the foyer piece, Pete Eastman, Len� Templehoff, Tanya Bonello, Tuoi Stefaans and Brett Murray, and The Biscuits (Jenny Parsons, Diana Page and Mary Maclean) were invited to submit maquettes of their proposals. Eastman and Templehoff did not advance beyond this stage, and the others were kept hanging on for a few agonising weeks before the commission was awarded.

The work of Brett Murray needs no introduction here. The sculptor is a previous recipient of a commission from the GK Gross Trust, his controversial work Africa presently standing in St. George's Mall. This will be Murray's second major public commission. Less well-known, however, is joint winner Stefaans. He is part of the !Xun and San Art and Cultural Project in Schmidtsdrift, a group Murray approached with his initial idea. Murray was motivated as much by the graphic sensibility of the Project's artists, especially that of Stefaans, as he was determined that work by the San people should be better exposed.

Of his images, often rendered in linocut, Stefaans says, "Inspiration� comes from dreams and childhood memories of hunting gemsbok and walking, finding things of nature all around. I cannot read and write. I draw and paint. That is where people must read my work." Murray will render Stefaans' images in his trademark metal cut-outs, which will be finished in powder coating. A book publicising the Project's work, 'My Eland's Heart', has recently been published and features Stefaans' work.

Commenting on the award, Convenco-appointed art consultant and former UCT Professor Neville Dubow said, "The conceptual framework of the competition stressed the need for artwork to reflect the rich diversity of South African cultures and bring into focus the qualities that speak of Cape Town as a unique place - both in its historic and cultural dimensions. Over and above this we were looking for a coherent work that would make a powerful statement� I believe the winning design� has the rich potential to fulfil all of these criteria in a visually striking manner."