I thought I’d add a few thoughts to the recent flurry of emotional posturing about the comparatively trivial yet stony issue of statues. I would, of course, advise you to have some salt handy, not to rub into any wounds, real or imagined, but to be taken with the below:
What would be acceptable as a suitably neutral statue in 2015? What manner of statue will keep everyone happy across the political spectrum and supply shade to those of every shade? Here follows a miscellaneous mishmash of monuments that might manage this monumental undertaking:
– Animals and birds of various kinds. Perhaps it would be the only chance future generations get to see how a rhino looked. Fast forward to 2068 to view a group of futuristic kids in central Pretoria playing around a bronze replica of a sadly extinct member of the Big Five while playing on their Virtual Reality phones with 3D role play and chatting to friends on passing satellites.
– Fictional animals: A unicorn with a nice sharp gemsbok-like horn to impale an errant pigeon daring to defile its likeness. Gryphons, Orcs, hobbits, oliphaunts, dragons, mermaids… the list and the possibilities are endless. How about a giant mermaid, siren or grim Rhine Maiden guarding the entrance to Durban Harbour?
– Fictional people from books, movies and nursery rhymes. Excluding poor old Snow White with her delightfully descriptive but clearly ethnically derived name. See the colourful flower sellers displaying their wares under a huge Darth Vader outside the entrance to the Company Gardens. A statue of Sleeping Beauty on the steps of Parliament, to remind our politicians of what happens when their speeches go on too long. Observe the ancient and feared Kraken rising out of the ocean onto a pier on the beachfront.
don’t mess with me!
– Assorted gods and goddesses from different cultures. Durban could boast a huge statue of Kali glaring at passersby and waving her arms of mass destruction about. Buddha could sit under his tree contemplating the view and the passing crowd from under a shady tree in front of the picturesque City Hall. Thence to Johannesburg where we now see Bacchus prancing around the fountains outside Wits, leading a troop of topless dancing girls to bathe in celebration of the fruits of the vine in a colourful orgy of festivity.
– Totem poles featuring the fierce faces of some of our favourite animals and birds, such as buffalo, crocodile, African Fish Eagle, wild dog and leopard.
– Dinosaurs. They were here first, long before any of us, roaming Gondwanaland, making the argument of who was in Southern Africa first moot. Their statues, such as those among the trees outside the Sudwala Caves, probably have more right to be here than any of our forefathers. See the school groups photographing the numerous gigantic statues as part of their educational curriculum.
look at me when we’re fighting about who was here first!
– Goodbye Voortrekker Monument -welcome the new Hanging Gardens of Babylon with water chutes cascading down in every direction and doubling up as a Water Park in the summer, yelling kids getting a bird’s eye view of Centurion as they hurtle down the tube.
Fountains are another practical option. The sound of water is so much more conducive to a quick takeaway lunch than a silent, sullen statue of a crap-infested, dour historical figure from Boer or Brit history. Of course, they may hasten the need for a luncher to find the nearest public facility after listening to the watery lullaby for too long.
Cue to the gargoyles decanting water into lily-filled fountains on Church Square, while an anatomically correct David pees into a koi-filled pool outside the municipal offices. One could even have this image of man’s best friend fulfilling a natural need:
wish there were more trees about!
The old, unwanted statues of Boer and Brit would probably not mind where they are. Being shuttled off to a hidden indoor venue to be shrouded in dust might be a better option than all the years of sun, rain, hail and pigeon crap they’ve had to endure all these years. Were they to come alive they would doubtless prefer breathing the musty but peaceful and bookish air of an archive than the petroleum-laden air in the city centre, surrounded by honking taxis and rumbling buses. Would you really want your likeness to sit and watch the traffic all these years?
So there we have it. Useful statues doubling up as educational tools or a water supply to thirsty city birds. Rather than just collecting the dust of a century or more, we could have exciting statues that tourists would flock to see, and supply job opportunities to hungry nascent and emerging sculptors!