Cape Town – A giant pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses seems to have become the focal point of what it means for Cape Town to be the 2014 World Design Capital.
Priscilla Urquhart, spokesperson for the World Design Capital 2014 committee said in a statement,"Public art displays and installations play an important role in social cohesion and public debate."
Enter ‘Perceiving Freedom’, the 60m2 luxury brand of spectacles created by artist Michael Elion, unveiled on the Sea Point promenade two weeks ago.
It has most certainly met the objective as stated by the WDC2014 of starting “conversation and debate, creative sparks and exposing new audiences to public art” but not quite in the manner it expected.
The WDC2014 body has condemned 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".
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 Tokolos Stencil who marked it with their Remember Marikana symbol.
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 the myopic hearts 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…”
The artists said the hearts were akin to the “ANC’s sunshine journalism” and the statement “We broke your hearts” refers to “breaking this mirage of the rainbow nation that Elion is advocating”.
In the interview with The Con, Tokolos Stencils said they were more proud of “This city works for a few” which they painted on toilets and people’s shacks, but complained that this work was largely ignored, admitting that they had in fact gotten permission from the shack-owners to do the work.
But whether these shack dwellers are aware of how far Tokolos Stencils have taken their work and if they’ve been affected by the debate and art of the WDC2014 remains to be seen.
As the WDC2014 prepares to unveil another piece of artwork on top of Signal Hill made up of the old wire fencing from Robben Island, it has already been condoned as commercial and slightly out of touch.
But irrespective of the criticism, the WDC2014 said it was disappointed that the public installation was “defaced in the name of activism”.
We can’t help but wonder what Madiba would have thought about all of this?