Stone-Filled Elephant Sculptures by Andries Botha

Artist Andries Botha finally unveiled his Durban elephant sculptures made out of wire frames filled with stones at Warwick Junction.

The controversial sculptures symbolise "the forgotten conversation between man and nature" were commissioned by the Durban City Council at a cost of R1.5-million, as part of the Warwick Junction redevelopment plan.

"The elephants are emerging out of an island in the middle of a freeway. Method of Construction: Galvanized mild steel armature cladded with stainless steel mesh and tacked with bronze from the local quarry. It takes its construction principle from gabians ."

In February 2010, just two weeks from completion, Botha and his assistants were ordered to stop work when an African National Congress (ANC) councillor complained the artwork resembled the Inkatha Freedom Party's logo.

The unfinished public artworks have been covered by shade cloth and plastic since then.

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 and took the municipality to court.

While both parties fought a protracted legal battle over the sculptures, vandals destroyed the artwork by splashing red paint and the graffiti reading "Free us" was sprayed on the tarpaulin. One of the elephants was completely dismantled and the metal frame stolen, causing the rocks to fall out.

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.”

“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.”

"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."

The official opening ceremony is scheduled for sometime this month.

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