As one exits the airport highway and enters Johannesburg's inner city from its eastern edges, a rather prosaic statue greets one. It is a piece of public art that commemorates a mason, George Harrison, the man who discovered Johannesburg's Main Reef. The mesmerised prospector holds a piece of prize earth above his head, perpetually oblivious to the ebb and flow of the life force that surrounds him. But it is not old Harrison's statue that intrigues, rather his plinth: both its plaques are missing. Where there used to be an edifying public narrative, now there is an odd emptiness, like a missing tooth. In all likelihood an enterprising prospector - of the contemporary ilk - pilfered the precious metal of the plaque. (Bronze has its value with scrap metal traders.) Beyond the mundane details characterising this scene exists an apt truth: Johannesburg is a city without a defining master narrative. This conundrum might have escaped Cape Town to some extent, but as this look at public art in South Africa reveals, the inner city is a contested space. This fact accounts for the many initiatives aimed at asserting ownership of the post-Apartheid city. The goal: to forge a new narrative, one that will replace that old - not really missed - one proclaimed by those missing plaques.
We are delighted to announce that William Kentridge is our featured Editions for ArtThrob. We are currently offering readers a rare opportunity to acquire an original artwork by this stellar South African art personality, Village Deep a chine-colle silhouette image collaged on to the page of an old book.
Next Update: May 30, 2003