Andries Botha’s elephant sculptures to be completed at last

Work will resume on three controversial Durban elephant sculptures that reminded the ANC-led municipality of the Inkatha Freedom Party's logo.

This is according to a statement released on Thursday by artist Andries Botha's lawyer, Toby Orford.

“Andries Botha and the municipality have agreed that Botha will complete the sculpture of a small herd of elephants at Warwick Junction on the original site,” the statement read.

The sculptures are meant to symbolise "the forgotten conversation between man and nature", and were commissioned as part of the Warwick Junction redevelopment plan.

The unfinished public artworks, which were commissioned by the Durban City Council at a cost of R1.5-million, have been covered by shade cloth and plastic since February 2010, when Botha and his assistants were ordered to stop work when an ANC councillor complained the artwork resembled the Inkatha Freedom Party logo.

The ANC-controlled municipality tried to persuade Botha to change his artwork from one of three elephants to one representing the Big Five: an elephant, a Cape buffalo, a leopard, a rhinoceros, and a lion.

Botha objected to this suggestion that he deviate from the original meaning of the work, and took the municipality to court.

While both parties fought a protracted legal battle over the sculptures, which are made out of wire frames filled with stones, the work was vandalised.

On one occasion red paint was splashed over the works, and the graffiti reading "Free us" was sprayed on the tarpaulin. One of the elephants was completely dismantled and the metal frame stolen. Closed-circuit television cameras that should have caught the vandals on film were either not working or obscured by trees, the Mercury newspaper reported in June last year.

The latest agreement between the city and Botha requires him to build a fourth elephant.

“The municipality has acknowledged that it was unacceptable to Botha that he be compelled to change from his original three elephants sculpture to a Big 5 Design; and it has agreed to pay Botha's legal costs incurred to date,” Botha's statement read.

A later joint statement by the artist and the municipality highlighted that the compromise was an attempt to adhere to Botha's original intentions.

"Botha and the municipality believe that the settlement represents a favourable outcome for all stakeholders: Botha will complete his work in a manner which is consistent with his original artistic vision and his stature as an internationally recognised sculptor; the municipality will receive a work of artistic merit in a form that celebrates the majestic elephants that once roamed freely in this city; and the citizens of South Africa will be able to see, enjoy and be proud of a work of art with a distinctive African flavour in a public space."

IFP spokesperson Joshua Mazibuko suggested the ANC had to shoulder the financial burden of the out-of-court settlement reached by Botha and the city.

Mazibuko said the ANC, and not taxpayers, should pay because it decided to stop the project due to narrow political interests.

"As the IFP we wish to once again draw the attention of the public to the ANC's abuse tendency … regardless of the consequences thereof to the citizens." – Additional reporting by Sapa

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