The Fire Walker by Kentridge and Marx
Johannesburg is to have its own William Kentridge, a collaborative work with Gerhard Marx. Part of the public arts programme, it will stand at the south end of Queen Elizabeth bridge. The sculpture has been funded by the Johannesburg Development Agency and the Goodman Gallery. Standing 12m high (8 m of figure and 4m of stand), the work is made of laser cut steel plates – black against white ones. These recall the style of Kentridge’s work using torn pieces of black paper collaged onto the white pages from old books. Already known as the Fire Walker, the sculpture has been dubbed the ‘City of gold’s Statue of Liberty ‘ (Alex Dodd in The Weekender 20-06-09).
I saw the maquette at the Nirox Sculpture Park at the recent exhibition of contemporary sculpture (25 March 5 June 09) … more of Nirox in another posting. At ‘only’ 3 m it was viewed across one of Patrick Watson’s (the landscape architect) artfully crafted expanses of water. As can be seen in the accompanying photos, from a certain position the maquette coalesced very legibly into a woman carrying a brazier on her head.
From other view points it disintegrated completely and then re-emerged in a slightly more complex image of a man waving a flag (at that stage the batteries in my camera had run flat so no image of this.) The image is both a broader symbol of the celebration of ordinary people – the unsung heroines of our city and country, and is also very specific to its placement in this part of town – close to the taxi rank. These women who sell mielies (corn cobs) and ‘smileys’ (sheep’s heads), transport the burning braziers by carrying them on their heads. When the artists made their first site visit, some of these women were present at their braziers.