Soccer City

2009-12-26 12:56

2010 construction work may be driving Joburgers insane, but amid the chaos are works of art that will remain long after the soccer hordes have left, writes Gail Smith.  

If never-ending traffic jams and Dickensian detours caused by feverish 2010 roadworks and construction have got you close to the edge, take heart. From Ellis Park in the east to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge in the west, the city of Johannesburg has stealthily started installing public art works intended to be part of the city’ s 2010 World Cup legacy.

“Public art is designed to give people an experience of place. The art going up says that Johannesburg is a contemporary city.

It helps to create a memorable experience. It also says our city and country have a forward-thinking attitude to creativity and culture,” says Stephen Hobbs of The Trinity Sessions, a company that has managed several public art projects for the Johannesburg Development Agency.

Hobbs’s most liked work is an installation by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx on the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. Called The Fire Walker, it was inspired by the women who used to burn braziers at the end of the bridge.

“It’s not soccer-specific,” says Hobbs, “but Kentridge is our biggest international brand in visual arts, and one that will be familiar to many visitors to the World Cup.”

One piece that is sure to be seen by the bulk of visitors to matches at Ellis Park is the 3.5-ton sculpture by Durban-based artist Doung Jahangeer. Called Invented Mythologies, the sculpture stands on the precinct of the international stadium.
“Doung Jahangeer took his inspiration from the fact that the source of the only warm water source in Gauteng – the Jukskei River – is under Coca-Cola Park stadium,” says Lesley Perkes of Art at Work, an art project management company currently working on public art projects for the city.

Driving south on Sivewright Drive through Doornfontein, four soccer-playing sculptures by Winston Luthuli form a guard of honour for motorists passing.

The Hillbrow tower recently declared its commitment to 2010 with a giant soccer ball around the shaft of the tower. And motorists zooming up Houghton Drive towards Hillbrow now encounter a soccer field constructed out of traffic shevrons.
Sandton hosts some of the quirkiest and most ambitious pieces of public art to be unveiled in the run-up to 2010. The annual light project titled “Play” will stay up until after the 2010 World Cup.

The work of artist Usha Seejarim, the project consists of 34 light installations that run along Maud Street in Sandton. The work depicts soccer-related themes such The Dribbler, two medics carrying a wounded player off the field (and into the Netcare building), and a six-and-a-half-metre-high giant soccer player standing on the corner of Maud and Rivonia roads.

“Some say he is called Sepp Blatter,” says Perkes, “but he only has one ball and some people say Blatter has three.” 

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