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Landmark Cape Town murals reimagined

by Simangele Mzizi 30 Jun 2022
Tutu and Mandela murals under construction

The striking murals of beloved South African stalwarts Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu that grace the windows of the Cape Town Civic Centre have been revamped and enhanced.

It was time, in more ways than one. The stunning artworks of beloved icons Madiba and The Arch have been restored to their former glory, not only because they were fading but to inject a sense of optimism and hope in Cape Town.

The new decals were unveiled on 28 June, in time for Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, following the installation of updated versions of the 12-floor window artworks. The Madiba window was first installed in 2013, and the one of the late Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2017.

The huge artworks – which took three weeks to restore – are a significant feature of the Cape Town Central City and a popular tourist attraction: Madiba’s artwork in his signature shirt stretches 14 windows wide and 32 windows long, covering 448 windows in total.

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Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis oversees murals

Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis oversees contractors removing the old artwork at the Civic Centre.

BEACONS OF HOPE

With South Africa and Cape Town currently experiencing countless challenges, the revamping of the works of these two inspiring icons will instill “a sense of hope in the city and optimism about the country’s future, healing from the wounds of the past, and celebrating the beauty of its diverse people and environment,” says Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

“These iconic artworks invite us to enact the values of these two great South Africans while going about our daily lives by building and maintaining a free, fair, prosperous, and non-racial city and country. With a refreshed appearance, the depiction of these moral guardians offers renewed inspiration that we can achieve the goal of our new Integrated Development Plan: A City of Hope for All.”

REFRESH AND RENEW

The refurbishments began in early June after the design agency Dreamfuel Media reconceptualised the murals to comprise various imagery of special significance to Cape Town and South Africa.

To bring the idea to life on behalf of the City of Cape Town, the agency brought Cape Flats-born artist Linsey Levendall on board to do the illustrations which feature in Madiba’s work: these include the Bo-Kaap, penguins at Boulders Beach, Table Mountain, a “Kaapse Klopse” minstrel, and the King Protea. Archbishop Tutu’s shirt has pictures invoking the anti-apartheid struggle as well as the core political values of non-racialism, freedom, togetherness, and peace. Dreamfuel Media and Levendall have been involved with this project since its inception.

Madiba’s image for the mural is based on a photograph by Matthew Willman, who was commissioned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to photograph Mandela for 10 years. The Arch’s image draws on a photograph by Andrew Zuckerman, known for his book Wisdom, in which he photographed and interviewed luminaries, including Tutu, who were 65 years old.

The murals, initially printed on vinyl with a three-year life span, were looking worse for wear when the initial “dream team” that created them was brought back to restore them to their former glory.

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Murals reimagined

HUMBLING COMMISSION

Alberic Vollmer, director of Dreamfuel Media, says the commission was humbling. “We were honoured to be a part of something that is now a landmark on the cityscape, and glad that Capetonians have responded well to the two familiar faces that beam at you as you enter the city centre.”

Vollmer and colleague Abie Collins were approached in 2013 by project manager Ayesha Ishmael and Oryx Media. “We were commissioned to do a creative concept of a mural that would honour Nelson Mandela. We conceptualised it using Madiba’s shirt as a canvas for everything that symbolised Cape Town and its beauty. Once we put a concept design together, we then commissioned Linsey Levendall to illustrate our idea.”

Salon Ninety One, a boutique-style gallery and art consultation service, reports that Levendall, who now lives in Canada, defines his work as treading the fine line between beauty and distortion. Vollmer says Levendall was the perfect fit for the job, not only because he hailed from the Cape Flats and understood the role of the historical figures but “he’s a brilliant artist with an incredible eye for detail and is versatile in an array of styles”.

Both Mandela and Tutu’s histories have deep roots in the Mother City and the pair are recipients of Cape Town’s highest civic honour. These murals, along with other projects honouring them, will ensure their legacy lives on and hopefully inspires everyone who encounters them to adopt some of their values and envision a better South Africa for all.

  • Other interesting Mandela and Tutu artworks to view in the CBD include Mandela’s bronze statue at City Hall and the permanent exhibition inside the building, and the Arch for Arch monument at the Wale St entrance to Government Avenue (The Company’s Garden) which honours Tutu and represents the 14 chapters of South Africa’s Constitution.

IMAGES: City of Cape Town, CCID

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