Artist fights for elephant sculptures

2010-10-10 15:05

Durban’s infamous R1.5 million ­elephant sculptures, which sparked a row as they were deemed too IFP for the local ANC, are heading for the rubbish bin.

But their creator, sculptor ­Andries Botha, is fighting back. He is preparing to go to court to stop the eThekwini municipality from destroying the elephant sculptures it commissioned him to make.

Botha, whose Human Elephant Foundation sculptures are featured in cities across the world, said if council proceeded with its decision, his only ­recourse would be the courts and, if necessary, the Constitutional Court.

The city commissioned three ­elephants last year at a cost of R1.5?million but stopped the project after an ANC official – believed to be ANC eThekwini chairperson John ­Mchunu who died this week – ­objected on the basis that the ­elephants symbolised the IFP.

The cost of the project, for which Botha has not been paid in full, are escalating daily as the city is liable in terms of building law for the daily labour costs of R5 000 a day for Botha’s seven workers, who were ordered off site after Mchunu’s ­intervention in February.

The city is also set to incur further costs for ratepayers with its decision to remove two of the three elephants and add four other members of the Big 5.

When City Press visited the site of the six-ton sculptures this week, the green shade cloth which the city placed over them had been partially torn down.

One of the sculptures had been partially taken apart, while the site was littered with broken ­bottles, ­human faeces, discarded clothing and other refuse.

The sculptures are situated on an island in the freeway leading to the city’s busy Warwick Avenue and were meant to celebrate the ­relations between “human intellect and the fragile ecosystem”, ­according to Botha.

City manager Mike Sutcliffe said: “There has been a council ­resolution and we are now ­implementing that decision. I am not prepared to debate the issue.”

Botha said he had offered to ­include a fourth elephant in the sculpture – the IFP’s symbol is three elephants – but the city had ­seemingly rejected this and was bent on tearing the works down.

Two months ago, the ­ANC-dominated council decided to destroy two of the three elephants and ­replace them with the Big Five on the basis that this would be a more “appropriate” image for the city.

Botha said if council destroyed his work or brought in another artist to change the work, he would then go the legal route to protect his ­constitutional and artistic rights.

“I was commissioned to produce elephant sculptures as part of the Human Elephant Foundation by the city and that is what I have done.

“I was not commissioned to ­produce Big 5 sculptures. There has clearly been political interference in an artistic issue,” Botha said.

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