Six years after being commissioned, artist Andries Botha has finally unveiled his huge elephant sculptures made out of wire frames filled with stones. Emerging out of a freeway island in Durban, South Africa, the artwork is made of galvanized steel armature with stainless steel mesh and filled with rocks from a local quarry. The sculptures were meant to be completed ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but in February 2010, just two weeks from completion, the artist was told to stop by the African National Congress (ANC) because they believed the elephants were too similar to the Inkatha Freedom Party’s logo.
While the city decided on whether the artist could complete the sculptures, vandals destroyed the artwork by splashing red paint all over it and by removing the metal wiring, causing the rocks to fall out. Originally there were three elephant sculptures, one had been destroyed by vandals and the other two had been partially damaged. Determined to finish the project, the artist decided to add a fourth elephant that would be in line with the original concept. This would cause some differentiation from the IFP logo. He began to rebuild in 2014. As the artist stated, “The fourth elephant… will be free-standing and rise from the ground. It will be surrounded by three elephants (emerging from) the ground in different poses. (The sculpture symbolizes) the rebirth of elephants. Historically, elephants roamed this area before they were killed by hunters.”
The official opening ceremony is scheduled for sometime this month. The date has not yet been set. On his website, the artist wrote a heartfelt “thank you” letter to those that supported his vision. Here’s a section: “May I take this opportunity to address the most important aspect of the success that we have gained in the so-called ‘Elephant Saga’ in Durban. In hindsight it is completely evident to me that the victory in securing the rebuilding of the elephants is an example of a multi-layered advocacy that does not include one person, but many. I have personally been encouraged and taken heart from the many supporters that have spoken passionately and articulately about the tragedy of the Durban Elephants. You are all too many to name, those of you who have loyally supported the social networks and spoken your strong and articulate views about the on-going saga between myself and the eThekwini municipality.
“I would like to unreservedly thank you for your support in securing this important legal decision on behalf of the freedom of speech, the right for the public to have access to creativity and last, but not least, the moral authority of a work of art as a piece of intellectual property that is so adequately protected by our constitution. You have all played a most significant and important part in this significant victory. It is also now true that the elephants have now truly become part of the public property and ownership.”
What a beautiful piece of public art.