Artist, council settle dispute over sculptures

2013-02-01 00:00

CELEBRATED Durban artist Andries Botha will be able to complete the elephant sculptures at Warwick Junction after the eThekwini Municipality chose to settle its legal dispute with him out of court.

The case was due to be heard in the high court today and on Monday.

Botha was commissioned by the City of Durban to construct and assemble three life-size metal and stone elephants at Warwick Junction as part of an international herd that the sculptor has created under the banner of the Human Elephant Foundation.

There are 17 of Botha’s elephants around the world, all of which aim to highlight elephant conservation and to act as symbols of co-existence, humanity and ecological inter-dependence.

In 2010, the artist was forced to suspend work on the R1,5 million elephant project, which aimed to beautify the city ahead of the Fifa World Cup tournament, after an ANC councillor allegedly complained that the artwork resembled the Inkatha Feedom Party logo.

The council demanded that Botha change his sculpture to one with a Big Five design. Botha refused, and since February 2010 he has been involved in a protracted legal dispute with the municipality.

In a statement released through the supporters group Save the Durban Elephant Sculptures, Botha said he and eThekwini Municipality had agreed that he could complete the sculpture of a small herd of elephants at Warwick Junction on the original site.

The municipality also acknowledged that it was unacceptable to expect Botha to change his original sculpture to one of the Big Five and agreed to pay his legal costs.

IFP spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko said the ANC should shoulder the financial burden of the out-of-court settlement, and not the taxpayer.

“From the outset we condemned what was a party political decision which interfered with municipal processes, because the decision to half the project was driven by ANC’s narrow political interests,” said Mazibuko.

“Above that, as the IFP, we wish to once again draw the attention of the public to the ANC’s tendency to abuse power regardless of the consequences to the citizens,” he said.

Botha, meanwhile, has agreed to add an additional elephant to his sculpture. He said he believed the settlement represented a favourable outcome for all those involved.

According to the statement, Botha would “complete his work in a manner which is consistent with the original contract and his creative vision: to produce a herd of elephants as ecological metaphors intrinsic to the ethos of The Human Elephant Foundation, which has been exhibited locally and internationally, and to affirm his stature as a recognised sculptor in this regard”.

Botha said he was pleased that he and the municipality were able to reach a settlement.

“It is encouraging when open and serious collaboration enables artists and local government to work together to create and maintain public art.”

eThekwini spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said the settlement reflected mutual acceptance of the artist’s legitimate interest in, and rights with respect to, the maintenance of respect for his chosen field.

“It also reflects the need to respect the role of democratically elected public representatives in public affairs,” he said.

He said eThekwini was pleased to reach a consensus with Botha in the matter.

• arts@witness.co.za

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