A total Shaka meltdown looms

2010-06-05 00:00

THE fate of the bronze King Shaka statue removed from the new airport after the Zulu Royal Household raised concerns over its features and positioning, is in the balance amid fears it may be melted down because of the difficulty of altering it.

While the statue is locked away in a workshop in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, a task team set up by Premier Zweli Mkhize deliberates on its future.

The statue was removed on Wednesday night after King Goodwill Zwelithini and senior princes from the Royal House expressed concern that the statue is a not a true depiction of the Zulu warrior king.

Allegations that Zwelithini has said the statue made King Shaka look more like a herdboy than a warrior king were quashed by Mkhize and the Royal Household.

The sculpture, which stood outside the passenger terminal building, was created by well-known Durban artist Andries Botha at a cost of R3 million.

There is still no word on whether it will be melted down and recast or whether only certain aspects will be modified.

Durban artists have rallied around Botha to show support. They say he has a mammoth task ahead of him, especially since there are no pictures of Shaka to work with.

Artist Andrew Verster, a close friend of Botha, said it will be difficult to work on a sculpture without pictures or references.

He said that while the public have their views on what Shaka looked like, so does Botha, who tried to create what Shaka looked like.

“We all have an idea on what Shaka looked like. A clever sculptor will take these ideas and create a piece. That statue is what Botha has come up with. It’s his version, that’s how he saw it,” he said.

Verster said Botha is not upset with the decision to take down the statue and correct some of its features.

Botha has agreed to help recreate the statue so it meets the royal family’s requirements and will work closely with the task team appointed by Mkhize.

“He has been very humble this whole time and is full of generosity.

“A smaller person would be really angry and would have said no,” he said.

Verster said Botha has declined to make public statements, as he wants to concentrate on the statue.

“He has listened to all the requests and is very helpful. He is a professional and wants to get the job done.

“The statue will be even more stunning than before and the public will love it.”

Verster believes Botha’s reputation will be enhanced when the new statue is revealed.

Durban sculptor Hannah Lurie said it will be difficult to modify the statue and that Botha will probably have to start from scratch once the design has been approved.

She said she does not understand why people are complaining about the statue now, as Botha would have created a statue only after receiving a proper brief.

“As an artist, I would be so frustrated about having to start again. I’m upset for him.

“I have known him for years and he is a brilliant sculptor. It’s unfair that he has to go through this again especially after the elephant saga,” she said.

Kim Goodwin of the Goodwin Foundry, where the statue is being stored, said it is difficult to say whether the statue will be recast.

“Nothing has been confirmed yet. It will be stored away until a decision has been made.”

Goodwin said that while many artists are angry with the decision to remove the statue, which has never been done anywhere in South Afrca, it is important to portray Zulu culture correctly.

“Any artwork that contains any kind of Zulu history must be correct.

“There was such a rush to get the piece ready for the airport that this could have been overlooked,” he said.

He added that statues of famous people, especially royalty, have often been criticised worldwide.

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