Public Art in South Africa

Public Art in South Africa

Bronze Warriors and Plastic Presidents
Edited by Kim Miller and Brenda Schmahmann
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Format: Paperback 58 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02992-8
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How does South Africa deal with public art from its years of colonialism and apartheid? How do new monuments address fraught histories and commemorate heroes of the struggle? Across South Africa, statues commemorating figures such as Cecil Rhodes have provoked heated protests, while new works commemorating icons of the liberation struggle have also sometimes proved contentious. In this lively volume, Kim Miller, Brenda Schmahmann, and an international group of contributors examine statues and memorials as well as performance, billboards, and other temporal modes of communication, considering the implications of not only the exposure but also erasure of events and icons from the public domain. Revealing how public visual expressions articulate histories and memories, they explore how such works may serve as a forum in which tensions surrounding race, gender, identity, or nationhood play out.

Author Bio

Kim Miller is Associate Professor and holds the Jane Oxford Keiter Professorship of women's and gender studies and art history at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Miller’s scholarship, which examines the relationship between visual culture, gender, and power in African arts, includes her forthcoming book, How Did They Dare? Women’s Activism and the Work of Memory in South African Commemorative Art.

Brenda Schmahmann is Professor and the South African Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture at the University of Johannesburg. She has written, edited, or coedited a number of volumes on South African art, the most recent of which are Picturing Change: Curating Visual Culture at Post-Apartheid Universities and The Keiskamma Art Project: Restoring Hope and Livelihoods.


“This book alerts us to the pitfalls and potentials of public art in a stimulating and thought-provoking manner, and is highly recommended for specialist readers as well as a broader audience.”
 — African Arts

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Engaging with Public Art in South Africa, 1999–2015 / Kim Miller and Brenda Schmahmann

Part 1: Negotiating Difficult Histories
1. A Janus-like Juncture: Reconciling Past and Present at the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park / Elizabeth Rankin
2. A Thinking Stone and Some Pink Presidents: Negotiating Afrikaner Nationalist Monuments at the University of the Free State / Brenda Schmahmann
3. The Mirror and the Square—Old Ideological Conflicts in Motion: Church Square Slavery Memorial / Gavin Younge

Part 2: Defining and Redefining Heroes
4. Public Art as Political Crucible: Andries Botha’s Shaka and Contested Symbols of Zulu Masculinity and Culture in Kwazulu-Natal / Liese van der Watt
5. Mandela’s Walk and Biko’s Ghosts: Public Art and the Politics of Memory in Port Elizabeth’s City Center / Naomi Roux
6. Commemorating Solomon Mahlangu: The Making and Unmaking of a "Struggle" Icon / Gary Baines

Part 3: Erasures and Ruins
7. The Pain of Memory and the Violence of Erasure: Real and Figural Displays of Female Authority in the Public Sphere / Kim Miller
8. Transgressive Touch: Ruination, Public Feeling, and the Sunday Times Heritage Project / Duane Jethro

Part 4: Ephemeral Projects
9. Public Art, Troubling Tropes: An Unsettling Intervention in Cape Town/ Shannen Hill
10. Unsettling Ambivalences and Ambiguities in Mary Sibande’s Long Live the Dead Queen Public Art Project / Leora Farber
11. Unsanctioned: The Inner-City Interventions of Julie Lovelace / Karen von Veh
12. Rage against the State: Political Funerals and Queer Visual Activism in Post-apartheid South Africa / Kylie Thomas
13. Tell-Tale Signs: Unsanctioned Graffiti Interventions in Post-apartheid Johannesburg / Matthew Ryan Smith

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