PICS: Three-metre tall sculpture a symbol of hope for crime-ridden Cape suburb

2019-07-13 21:37
A group of young poeple in Vrygrond built a sculpture which has been named “The Ship of Ubuntu”. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

A group of young poeple in Vrygrond built a sculpture which has been named “The Ship of Ubuntu”. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

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"This represents a start to something greater," says Vrygrond resident Anteeno Hendericks.

Hendericks is one of over 40 young people from Vrygrond, Capricorn and Overcome Heights who helped erect a wooden sculpture, which now stands tall on the corner of Prince George Drive and Capricorn Boulevard near Muizenberg.

They, together with volunteers from San Francisco, took four weeks to finish the sculpture made out of recycled materials including wooden pallets and steel. Named "The Ship of Ubuntu", the artwork is about 3m high. It is shaped like a boat, with the face of a man in front and a collection of houses on top.

According to a media statement, the hull of the boat pays homage to Vrygrond's history of being a fishermen's village, while the houses on top symbolise the unity of the community.

For Hendericks, the sculpture represents a community that "can go anywhere".

"If we stand together as a community we can do anything," he said.

Vrygond sculpture

               The sculpture pays homage to the fisher community that Vrygrond once was. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Hendericks has been living in Vrygrond for five years and said it had been a struggle.

Vrygrond has been hit hard by gang violence and housing problems. Gangsters were recruiting children, he said. Through the artwork they are trying to show there are better options than gangsterism.

"There is something better than selling yourself short or going to prison for somebody else," he said.

The art project is a collaboration with Mexican street artist Libre Gutierrez and the Sozo Foundation. Gutierrez creates artwork across the globe, sometimes involving migrants and incarcerated people.

Last year, he facilitated and painted a colourful mural on the walls of the Vrygrond Community Centre. The sculpture was also supported by the Vrygrond Community Development Forum.

Lygia Stebbing from San Francisco said a lot of people have ideas of what Vrygrond was about: that "it's full of gangsters and drugs", but "really the community is beautiful".

Stebbing is one of the artwork organisers from EDvance, a teacher preparation programme based at San Francisco State University in California.

"People should challenge themselves beyond the stereotypes," she said. "People may look one way but it doesn't necessarily mean that they are people to be afraid of or that they don't care about their community."

Vrygond sculpture

  Seemo Mowers is trying to change people's perceptions of Vrygrond with this sculpture. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Since 2012, Stebbing and her students have been running programmes in Vrygrond, which include bringing in pre-school teachers from the US.

One of them is Noelle Owusu who teaches children in the Bay View area in San Francisco.

She said communities there faced similar struggles to those in Vrygrond, including gang violence, poverty and inequality, describing it as a "forgotten community within a very affluent, resource-filled area".

Owusu said when you saw beauty in a neighbourhood like this, it does not make all the violence stop or take the trauma away "but it gives people a reminder that there is beauty in the world".

For Randall Daniels, this artwork is a way for him to give back to the community. He said when you searched for Vrygrond online, all you see is "poor people", but when you are inside the community "you see rainbows".

Daniels, 26, said the sculpture was the community coming together with one mindset, adding they were showing people "that there is something good coming out of this place".

He has lived in Vrygrond his entire life and said at one point he was doing all the "bad stuff", but then he started working with a different group of people.

"The people I was involved with didn't allow me to be the person that I was," he added. "They saw something in me that I didn't see in myself."

In the future, Stebbing hopes to take Vrygrond's youth to the US to take part in programmes in San Francisco.


  The sculpture is an expression of hope. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Read more on:    cape town  |  youth  |  art

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