Madiba sunglasses artist lays charge after being threatened

Cape Town - Artist Michael Elion has filed a charge against the anonymous group of artists Tokolos Stencils, after his controversial piece, Perceiving Freedom, was defaced just two weeks after its unveiling.

ENCA reports Elion has in fact received threats since the inception of the artwork partly funded by Ray-Ban, laying charges against a long list of people.

Elion called the act, “criminal" and “an incitement of violence", while the World Design capital 2014 has slammed the vandalism of the art installation by Tokolos Stencils, a collective group of anonymous graffiti artists, calling it a "sad day when public debate is substitute with vandalism and lawlessness". 

Fellow artist, Hermann Niebuhr, who reportedly threatened the Elion clarified his intentions on Facebook with the following explanation: 

"So it appears as if Michael Elion has laid charges of incitement to violence against myself, Stephen Hobbs, and Candice Breitz following a post I made on FB. 

"Tell that charlatan Michael Elion, we’re sending a Joburg street fighter Stephen Hobbs down to settle this"

"oh dear. Lets have a look see.

"Michael, the 'street fighter' refers to street cred ( you appear to have zero), the "fighter" one of the finest public art experts in Joburg and of course the "settling" would refer to his giving you a piece of his mind. Not violence, dear boy."

The installation by Elion, created in conjunction with the City of Cape Town is part of World Design Capital 2014 ART54, piloted by former Ward 54 Councillor Beverley Schaeffer. It was meant to pay tribute to Mandela as part of the platform for social impact created by the WDC through design with its 460+ projects in the WDC2014 programme.  

But it not only sparked debate around its relevance to the legacy of Nelson Mandela, with some calling it "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” it also incited the handy work of the graffiti artists who said the myopic art was akin to the “ANC’s sunshine journalism”.

The words 'We broke your hearts’ were added as poke at the other Mother City installation by Elion called the Secret Love Project, with Tokolos Stencils saying it had become the equivalent expression of “white hipsters’ love for the oppressive city we live in: the segregation, the racism, the capitalist exploitation, which all becomes hidden…” 

Plans are afoot to restore the sculpture but the artist expressed his concern saying he wasn’t sure if they would be able to get spray-paint off.  

Elion called the violation ironic, stating that the “very people claiming to uphold the noble principles of our constitution are the very people violating it” and while he welcomed healthy debate, the act was inexcusable.

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