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Monday Feb 04, 2013

Durban sculptor mulls over jumbo resurrection

To fix the elephant sculptures or to rebuild them - that is the "million dollar" question renowned Durban artist Andries Botha is faced with.

The sad sight yesterday of the vandalised elephant sculptures that have been abandoned for three years.

Botha, who this week settled a three-year legal battle with the eThekwini municipality out of court, will meet city officials next week to iron out details of the jumbo sculptures.

Botha, who is now out of the city, said yesterday he was pleased the matter had finally been put to rest.

When asked whether he would be required to rebuild the sculptures, which had been vandalised, he said: "That is the million-dollar question."

The sculptures had been sprayed with red paint, making it look as if they had had their trunks cut off by poachers. Grey paint was recently sprayed on to almost cover the red.

"One would need to look at whether it will be cheaper to rebuild or completely fix the sculptures," said Botha.

He said that both he and the city were more than wary of the cost. "But I also don't want to create an inferior product."

When asked when work on the wire and stone elephants at Warwick Avenue Junction would resume, Botha said it would not be immediate. "I'm heavily committed at the moment to a lot of work which will take me up to August," he said.

It was agreed that a fourth sculpture would be added. "The fourth sculpture will have the same character, but the positioning will be different as it will be free-standing," Botha explained. He said it was easier to add to artwork than to "take away" from it.

This week's agreement comes after a 2010 wrangle which resulted in his work being brought to an abrupt halt by city officials. The dispute began after an advance payment had been made to Botha, who had been commissioned to do the work for R1.5 million.

He had got quite far with the work when he was told to stop by the ANC's eThekwini head, John Mchunu, who died later that year. Mchunu had been unhappy with the choice of animal that had been used, as it resembled the elephant depicted in the logo of the ANC's rival, the IFP. A public outcry followed, with political parties and ratepayers criticising the city for wasting money.

However, the sculptures had reportedly been funded by the national Department of Transport for the World Cup.

Botha and the city agreed this week that he would complete the sculptures on the original site. The city has also agreed to pay Botha's legal fees.

The Independent on Saturday


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