Mandela sunglasses sculpture defaced

2014-11-18 09:45

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Michael Elion’s controversial artwork, Perceiving Freedom, on Sea Point promenade in Cape Town has been defaced overnight.

Radical street artists Tokolos Stencils are behind the artistic sabotage.

The giant sunglasses, co-financed by Ray-Ban, face Robben Island and evoke Nelson Mandela’s time on the island on an accompanying plaque with a picture of the former president wearing a pair of dark glasses (clearly not Ray-Bans).

Last night the sunglasses were defaced with the words “Myopic Art” stencilled on to them, as well as a sentence sprayed on the frames reading “We broke your hearts”, in reference to the victims of Marikana.

The work was erected under the auspices of the public art initiative Art54.

Criticism has been levelled at it for being disrespectful to Mandela, because his eyes were severely damaged by the blinding whiteness of the limestone quarry he was forced to work on the island, and for the blatant and overt commercial subsuming of a public art space into a commercial billboard.

The sunglasses themselves, stripped of context, have become a giant climbing frame for children.

The radical activism group Tokolos sent out a statement at about 1am, which reads: “As requested, Tokolos has heeded the call. You’re welcome to have someone check out the new and improved Ray-Ban Madiba glasses this morning before the authorities arrive… Aluta continua… Tokolos.”

Tokolos are an anonymous collective whose Marikana stencils are becoming a frequent addition to the cognitive dissonance of Cape Town.

When asked about their anonymity in a recent interview, soon to be published in City Press, they said: “The short answer is so that we can protect our own safety – mostly in terms of political prosecution if we one day piss off JP Smith [Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security] and it suddenly becomes his mission to charge us with ridiculous things. But that’s really just a cop-out.”

This action is surely likely to get the attention of Smith, who is responsible for the policing of Cape Town’s notorious graffiti bylaws.

Tokolos are defiant in the upcoming interview: “Our public spaces are being privatised and defaced by corporate interests – is that not vandalism of the highest order?”

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