Once I made a presentation at a ward 54 council meeting

A year or so ago the City of Cape Town put up posters around the city saying “so you think you are an artist?” and threatened a R5 000 spot fine for anyone found making any kind of graffiti or public installation without permission. 

So I sought out permission to make a public work, which is notoriously difficult.

I began developing a relationship with the Cape Town City arts and culture department.  At one meeting, when I was describing my intentions, an employee said she didn’t get it but that was not her job. 

It is her job. In my mind then working with the city council and trying to get permission to make this work became an integral part of my work.  Each step of my application process became a performance.  

My role as an artist extended to activate the imagination of the employees of the city council by illustrating and aestheticising my ideas and performing through presentations to a committee. 

My first public artwork was to be installed at the Seapoint Promenade in Cape Town. I attended a ward 54 council meeting.  After my presentation a woman from the rate payers association protested on the wording of one of my stories because she said that they had spent a lot of time stopping people from digging in the bins on the promenade and she feels my story will encourage ‘them’ to carry on.  

At that point I thought my work and my process was successful; she was the first person I needed to reach. 

I had walked the promenade for a year on a daily basis and had only just began to gain an understanding of the complexity of the space.  In the same bay as the Cape Town Harbour - where tourist boats, yachts and container ships enter and leave - it is a place where people come to walk along the Atlantic Seaboard and get to experience a close proximity of the ocean. 

It is a space where tourists come to watch the sunset and tick it off their things-to-do-in-Cape-Town-list, families walk on Shabbat, Eid is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, joggers train, walkers walk, dogs are allowed to play on certain areas and homeless people look in the dustbins for food and shower at the showers on the beaches.  It is also a space where some questionable public art installations have taken place and a perfect place to start to engage with placing artworks in the public domain.

In the end I received a permit (about 6 months later) to install my work and after I put it up it was removed within a few hours.  The installation I chose to make shifted from the stories I wrote about observations of people.  I settled rather on a wheat pasted series of black and white clouds on the concrete seawall.  Dropped below the horizon line the image of the reproduced clouds was quite beautiful and by removing them they did me a metaphorical favour, because as clouds do they come and go.  I am interested in the subtle act of communicating an idea to someone. Of working in metaphor and allegory and activating the imagination of the public.

I returned a little while later and I re-pasted the clouds on the wall. Because it was reported by Media 24 the installation stayed up for long enough for the prints to start to disintegrate, this worked beautifully because again that's what clouds do and so does information it disperses.

Recently I have requested permission again from the city council to install the clouds under the bridges of the highways around the city.  The clouds speak of movement and temporarily.  The permission was denied by the council on the grounds of setting a bad precedent.  Have you seen under the bridges?


By the way the short stories ended up as a work which was printed onto flyers and put onto the windscreen wipers of various cars around the city. One resident asked me why I am not standing at the Adderly Street Station and handing the stories out there. She got a bit freaked out by my story about Precious.  I thought, brilliant, here in the city suburbs is exactly where they need to be.



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