Artist takes legal steps to protect his elephants

2010-11-18 00:00

THE furore surrounding Durban sculptor Andries Botha’s elephant sculptures continues unabated — and now the artist himself has taken legal steps to protect the works.

Botha has started legal action against eThekwini Municipality to stop the council from destroying the sculptures, which are three-quarters built.

“I decided to take legal action to protect the rights of the artwork as per the contract and as per the rights of the artist in terms of the South African Constitution,” he told The Witness.

“They have labelled the artworks as political when they are clearly an ecological statement … I want clarity on the actions they want to take.”

The life-size metal and stone sculptures were due to form part of an international herd of elephants that Botha has created under the banner of the Human Elephant Foundation.

They were commissioned by a municipal committee made up of councillors, members of the built environment department and members of Durban Art Gallery, for the Warwick Junction redevelopment,

He has created 17 elephants around the world to highlight elephant conservation and to act as symbols of coexistence, humanity and ecological interdependence.

Work started on the R1,5 million project in November last year, but in February council officials forced Botha and his staff to stop work after an ANC councillor allegedly complained that the artwork resembled the Inkatha Freedom Party logo.

Nine months on, Botha is still in the dark about the future of the project.

In the meantime vagrants have moved into the area, and the sculptures are falling into disrepair. Botha says he hasn’t been allowed to set foot on the site and is perplexed that the council isn’t doing more to protect the works, given that public money is involved.

But the artist also believes there is a bigger issue at stake than simply what will happen to his statues.

“I’ll resolve my legal battle with the council — but there is a grey area that needs to be addressed … the rights of the individual versus the rights of the state,” Botha said.

“I feel the state is overstepping its mark and people need to be vigilant about it.

“This is an important moment for them to voice an opinion about how they see their citizenship being protected by the …Constitution.”

Friends and supporters of Botha have launched an online petition, which calls on eThekwini Municipality to allow him to complete the installation and to reverse its decision to destroy the existing work and replace it with an installation of the Big Five.

The petition will eventually be handed to representatives of the municipality, the Premier’s office and the Department of Arts and Culture in KwaZulu-Natal.

Despite numerous phone calls to the municipality, no comment was forthcoming from the council at the time of going to press.


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