Artvark’s Theresa Jo & CP Wessels Public Art at Green Point Track A
Yesterday (6 July 2013) marked the launch of the upgraded Green Point Track, this formed part of the vision of the City of Cape Town to upgrade sporting facilities within its located areas. It is not just the upgrading of the facilities to be used more by the public and enhance the facilitation of sport events, it is so much more. With this particular upgrading a memory was formed from events in the past to present, including what is unknown, forgotten, known, celebrated and part of the sport and recreation of Cape Town.
The key approach was the Memorialization of the Green Point Track
Within the planning stages that were already on their way in 2009, it was identified that public art as a physical intervention would play a significant role in the upgrading project, mainly to visually portray and commemorate the rich social and cultural history of the track as well as the relevance of Cape Town’s sporting history. The idea was to have a series of sculptural figures to symbolize the main themes which would be chosen after intensive research, it was crucial to take the significance and sensitiveness of the area into account. The presentation of the sculptures had to be in a design format of both positive and negative panels from metal. This was the landscape architect, Darryl Pryce-Lewis, idea that the different themes must be portrayed in a positive and negative sculpture and to be placed in a line, in the end this symbolically contributed to the visual effect to be able to look through a negative space of an individual sculpture towards the positive, the symbolism of this already touch upon the diverseness and challenges faced in our country.
The commissioning of an artist to create these public sculptures focused on contributing towards the vision of the project and work within the proposed format with a free, fresh, diversified and original approach. It was Artvark’s designers Theresa Jo and CP Wessels proposal of 10 life size sculptures based around 5 themes (both positive and negative designs) with their design approach of being original, unique and creative that were approved early 2012. The reason for choosing the sculptures for the identified space at the Green Point Track was to visually and emotionally portray the rich history, heritage and significance of the site that is publically accessible and also used for sporting and fund raising events.
The idea of the several selected main themes related to the historical reference and geographical area of the Green Point Track taking a period of 400years into account.
The following historical themes were identified by the Heritage practitioners and outlined in the artist brief to be incorporated into the designs of sculptures;
- British Period / 19th Century: In 1850 there was a report in the Cape Monitor of a cricket match at the Common, and Basil d’Olviera is one of the great names associated with cricket in the Cape. In 1856 rugby was introduced to Cape Town and 1897 Jack Rose set an Amateur cycling world record at the track.
- Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902): The grounds served as grounds for British and Colonial troops. The track was used as a tented camp area for Boer prisoners of war was held in transit before being shipped to St Helena, Ceylon and Bermuda.
- 20th Century: The first coon carnival was held on the Green Point common in 1907 and in 1910 the track was the rehearsal venue for the Great Pageant. The track became an important venue for these parades and competitions from the 1920’s. The ‘Kaapse Klopse’ also marked the significant event of the ending of slavery.
- Later 20th Century, Apartheid era and present: The track was a popular sporting and recreational venue for marginalized communities in Cape Town. Later on schools from poorer areas such as Bo-Kaap, District Six, Docks, Tramways road, Sea Point and St. Augustines in Kloof Street held annual athletic meetings.
- Present: The ground is shared by various sport clubs, winter season – Schotse Kloof Walmers and Young Stars Rugby Clubs, summer season – United Cricket Club.
The design phase was one of the first challenges the artist faced, to design the sculptures that it can encapsulate the history, by creating an individual character for each theme. This character had to be able to tell a story, thus be educational but to be able to invite a visitor and engage within a dialogue. The dialogue also had to be steered that the visitor could explore their own creative thinking regarding what they see before them. Theresa Jo focused on specific details and the identity of each piece to depict the characteristics which makes each sculpture unique and creating a character which reflects historical, social, cultural and emotional references.
The manufacturing challenges were left to CP Wessels, he achieved to make the sculptures 3dimensional as well as ensuring the rigidity and strength by designing a structure for the sculptures that used two metal plates with a flange in between.
The cut-out individual characters are almost life size, and the artists felt it essential to have the sculptures placed at eye-level. Theresa Jo was the driving force behind the idea to not place the sculptures on pedestals, she emphasizes that these sculptures are for the users of Track A and the visitor should feel 100% comfortable with them. To have the characters flat on the ground according to Theresa Jo you diminish that respect and fear, even though there are 10 sculptures they do induce an informal, fun and homely atmosphere. The sculptures creates a space where one can feel at ease, a comfort zone in a metaphorical metal timeline of history that surrounds one, an excellent way to enhance educational value through the use of design.
A few details on the characters being explored:
The Minstrel`s are part of Cape Town’s annual new Year’s festivity (Kaapse Klopse). It is not common knowledge that the significance of the exuberance of the Minstrel’s is their celebration of the ending of slavery. The world famous procession starts and ends at the ‘Track A’ every year.
The waving gloved hands, big smiles, bowler hats and umbrellas are part of their glamorous outfits, and all of these are visually incorporated and portrayed in both the positive and negative sculpture. Architectural and iconic landscapes also make their appearance in the negative Minstrel sculpture, the use of city lights, Table Mountain and Bo-Kaap architecture. The artists hope that the ‘Ghoemas’ will take group photographs at the sculpture to celebrate their identity and culture.
The sculpture of the Freedom fighter reflects and references the second Anglo-Boer War. This sculpture is close to Theresa Jo’s heart as her own great grandfather was kept there before being sent to Ceylon. The Boers were kept in tents on the field at Track A, a fact that few Capetonians know about. The tiny cross which is seen on the flap of the tent symbolizes the deaths of many South Africans in the concentration camps. The outcome of these circumstances resulted in more than 40 000 black and white women and children dying. The sculpture of the Freedom fighter looks ahead, but with a critical eye one can see him looking sideways down towards the little cross.
More detail is depicted in the characters feet, like the shoes of the Freedom fighter that are worn leather, the rugby and cricket players shoes were studied to be able to reflect the characteristics, the Minstrel`s thick soled ‘tekkies’ are a reflection of their fashion and the children are bare feet. The clothes of the Boer prisoner is tattered and crumpled as opposed to the Minstrel`s festively designed and smoothly ironed suits, and the elegant straight line down the pants. The rugby player`s gear looks slightly old fashioned, but the frustration of trying to get to the ball is vivid. In the first sculpture (negative) the ball is still hanging in the air, but he luckily did manage to catch it in the second piece (positive).
The first grandstand on the Green Point track was a beautiful example of Colonial Architecture build around 1895, but burnt down in 1935. Theresa Jo was adamant to replicate the pavilion in one of the sculptures and now it is visible and ‘present’ again as hosting the fans/crowd watching cricket.
Green Point Track A currently hosts Inter-school athletics meetings. The artists hope the children will feel comfortable with the sculptures as it was designed for them and their stadium, to love it and gather around for group photographs. Elements of good sportsmanship are shown by the girl smiling and by different children winning in the sculptures.
Theresa Jo and CP Wessels aimed towards creating pieces that will be a timeless anchor for its viewer/visitor. To relate and learn from the history portrayed through the fun visual elements and elaborating or enhancing the process of creative thinking, which places the viewer at ease and let them interact and form a dialogue with each character at their own pace.
The public art sculptures can be visited at the Green Point Track A based at the corner of Granger Bay Boulevard and Fritz Sonnenberg Road,
Click on the following to view more insight and planning towards the project