'If someone didn't do this it wouldn't be effective as public art'

Cape Town - If you've been in the vicinity of the Sea Point promenade recently, you've probably noticed the massive pair of Ray-Ban wayfarers peering out over the bay. 

Created by artist Michael Elion, in conjunction with the City of Cape Town as part of World Design Capital 2014, the 'Perceiving Freedom' installation is said to be a tribute to Mandela. 

'Say what?' is pretty much the exact reaction that most people have had to the explanation. How exactly does a pair of 60m2 luxury brand spectacles, erected in one of the most affluent parts of the city commemorate one of South Africa's most iconic freedom fighters?

Also see: Mandela-inspire Ray-Bay art decried as opportunistic

As Duane Jethro put it in a piece on Africasacountry.com, “It’s a stunning emetic trigger that suggests that Nelson Mandela is beckoning us from the afterlife to buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, to do our duty for reconciliation and nation-building by consuming this luxury product."

While many have been discussing its relevance and debating its presence in writing, activist group Tokolos Stencil Collective have taken their dissatisfaction with the symbolism into their own hands, marking it with their recognisable 'Remember Marikana' tag, as well as the phrase 'We broke your hearts.'

They claimed the act on their Facebook page, stating: 

The vandalism has been a hot topic of debate, with many people calling it shameful. We couldn't help but wonder whether it may not be doing more for our collective remembrance of the tumultuous history we are a product of than a pristine pair of gargantuan wayfarers could. 

We asked readers to share their opinions, and what they had to say was fascinating indeed. Here are some of the responses:


sam.e.scapes  - Well we as ordinary citizens don't have much of a voice. If government doesn't listen to the people them the people will find other forms of voicing their opinions. We have many unanswered issues in this new dispensation. Using the Mandela specs to voice grievances is a good way of reminding everyone that the freedom charter and equality for all that he stood for are no longer guiding principles in our country. I like this idea of protest art and think it is very fitting for this time in our history as South Africans. I think it is more effective than just a huge pair of Ray Bans that are supposed to remind us of Madiba. I believe he would love the protest message on them, much more, that was much more his legacy.

Songezo Mcapukisi - Mandela would have agreed with the protesters now. It is about time government realise it is no longer business as usual. The inequality gap keeps on widening and many people are left behind feeling the wrath of poverty and starvation.

Jeannette Thomas - Definite improvement. Not everything is so rose tinted as our governments would like tourists to believe with all their artworks in tourist hot spots depicting "freedom" in the new South Africa

Sam Beaton -  think it adds to its value as a symbol


Fatima White - Defacing another artist's work is just poor form, irrespective of whether or not you agreed with the piece in the first place. This is vandalism.

What do you think? Add your opinion in the comment section below!
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