Cape Town – Art has always been a clairvoyant of unknown cities and places - forcing us to shift our perceptions, discover new ones or simply just enjoy life. Think Banksy, the often controversial pseudonymous English graffiti artist and political activist or Florentijn Hofman who set adrift a giant floating Rubber Duck as a means to entertain the world and evoke pleasant childhood memories.
Enter World Design Capital for 2014, Cape Town - where and an artistic tribute to Nelson Mandela, entitled Perceiving Freedom, in the form of a pair of wayfarer Ray-Ban sunglasses has been installed on Cape Town’s Sea Point promenade. Turns out, not everybody has a rose-tinted view of the piece of work created by artist Michael Elion in conjunction with the City of Cape Town.
The super-sized spectacles, made of stainless steel, are a full 60m2 in size and has been setup to look out in contemplation towards Robben Island - supposedly creating a focal point of commemoration between its location and our country’s history.
Erected on a green space in one of the wealthiest parts of the city, the art work is said to be a carbon copy of a Denmark installation by Marc Moser entitled Sea Pink, and it has some folk questioning the reference and relevance to Madiba’s legacy.
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 the Daily Maverick’s Richard Poplak splashed the unveiling in satire, wondering “what would happen if the capital of Zilleland properly embraced the lessons learned by Elion’s work” also describing it as “pointedly non-political, inclusionary, and user-friendly”.
What do you think of the work?
Is it just a huge marketing ploy taking advantage of the Mandela Legacy or is it a fitting and relevant piece of work that sparks necessary debate around SA’s difficult past?