Durban's getting a new sea-themed statue – but don't worry, govt's not paying for it

Business Insider SA
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
  • South Africa's Department of Transport recently called on the country's designers to enter a competition.
  • It received a single entry, making it easy to pick the winner.
  • Sesana Sesana Studio, founded by twin sisters Letlhogonolo and Tlhologello, will produce a statue, using recycled materials from any marine craft, under the theme of "Benefiting from the Maritime Value Chain".
  • The statue will be unveiled, possibly by the President of South Africa, in October near Durban's Port Natal Maritime Museum.
  • And with South Africans still reeling from recent, controversial government-funded cultural projects, the department has made it clear that this statue will be produced through direct donations from private companies.
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A new statue, to be based near Durban's Port Natal Maritime Museum, has been announced by the Department of Transport, which emphasised that it wouldn't be footing the bill.

South Africa's Department of Transport, back in May, issued a call for design academies and schools to enter a competition. This competition was associated with the department's mid-term review of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP), which provides official policy positions on maritime issues in South Africa, under the theme of "Benefiting from the Maritime Value Chain".

"As a highlight of the year and considering that South Africa will be hosting the International Maritime Organisation's [IMO] World Maritime Day Parallel event in October, it was considered befitting to initiate a competition to give an opportunity to young designers to translate in art form the 2022 theme and incorporating the IMO's theme for the 2022 World Maritime Day," the department's Dumisani Ntuli, chief director for maritime policy and legislation, told Business Insider SA.

The department only received a single entry, from Sesana Sesana Studio, making it easy to decide the winner of the competition, announced via a government gazette on Monday.

"Historically, few artists have shown interest in producing what represents the sector," said Ntuli in explaining the low level of participation. "I think it is because there is still a lot we must do to promote our maritime sector."

Sesana Sesana Studio, founded by twin sisters Letlhogonolo and Tlhologello, alumni of the Tshwane University of Technology, specialises in design, architecture, and research. While the studio's winning design, a statue named "Ukuhlangana", won't be revealed to the public before its official unveiling in October, Tlhologello provided insight into the concept.

"Ukuhlangana, the name of the sculpture which translates to interconnectedness/coming together, is a sculpture that embodies the connections that have been built over time through maritime transportation," Tlhologello told Business Insider.

"Moreover, it is a testament to coming together for a common purpose rooted in mutual and sustained growth, not only for South Africa and her people, but also for South Africa and the international community."

"The sculpture's symbolic curvilinear shape of curved repurposed steel/aluminium depicted as one continuous loop represents the dynamism of an ever-evolving industry."

The brief provided by the Department of Transport required that the final creation represent the CMTP theme and use "recycled materials from any marine craft". Four potential sites for the statue, all near the Port Natal Maritime Museum, have been indicated within the most recent gazette.

Despite the competition being promoted and facilitated by the department of transport, government will not be paying for the statue's production, said Ntuli. Instead, the department has called on maritime companies to donate directly to Sesana Sesana Studio.

Government-funded cultural projects, like the highly controversial and now on-hold R22 million flagpole project, defended by the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, have elicited fierce ire from South Africans.

"This competition and responses to it must not create an expectation from entrants that the Department of Transport will in some way or the other enter into contractual agreement with any or related participants in its further development and execution," noted the gazette.

"The aim of the project is purely to promote critical thinking and innovation in the technical areas of the competition and that entrants have voluntarily chosen to participate with a full understanding of this condition."

Companies that donate to the construction, transportation, and placement of the statue "will receive special acknowledgement by having their names written in the plague commemorating the statue Ukuhlangana and in addition, they will get a desk-scale Ukuhlangana statue."

For winning the competition, Sesana Sesana Studio will receive a "certificate of recognition signed by the minister of transport and minister responsible for arts and culture" and stands a "chance" of being unveiled by the president of South Africa.

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