Monday, August 3, 2009

Firewalker in the City

Its been a long time since I was in Joburg (Johannesburg) city centre. It is a fascinating place... some parts deserted at certain times, others teeming with life. I have a reason to make a special visit back, now, as a beautiful sculpture has been erected.

The Firewalker was erected last week near the Queen Elizabeth bridge. Created by Gerhard Marx, and based on legendary South African artist William Kentridge's watercolour of a woman carrying a brazier on her head, the sculpture is a made up of many pieces of metal that merge into a figure, similar to those who have often walked that very street selling mielies (corn) or smileys (roasted sheeps' heads) to people passing by.

Born in Johannesbug, Kentridge's work has been see all over the world, but what I am most familiar with are his films, made of charcoal drawings morphing into another drawing. As someone who works with art and design I love how you can see the artwork growing, the passed movements evident as the story moves forward. This one on youtube plays into my love of typography, but there are plenty of others for you to feast on there.

You can read more about the sculpture and the artists on my current local news source,, and also on official City of Johannesburg's website (where I got these fabulous photos)


Linda Kunene said...

Do you know what this technique this sculpture is made by? I tried to Google it, and the closest thing I could fine is 'shadow art', which is similar but not quite the same thing.

kbd said...

Linda, I'll see if I can find anything but I think it could simply be metal forged together? I'll write another response once I've looked around...

Linda Kunene said...

Thanks kbd!

I love driving by this sculpture; seeing how it goes from being pieces of metal, to forming into the Firewalker, then going back to its separate pieces again.

There's a similar piece not far from Hilbrow. It's a soccer pitch made up of poles with the pitch painted onto them. A picture of it can be found here:(

I just love these kinds of sculptures; how they seem to form right in front of you It's a really interesting technique, & it raises many thoughts in my mind!

Are there more sculptures like this in south Africa or internationally?

kbd said...

Linda, that second sculpture is awesome! There are definitely more sculptures like this. I live in Boston, and we have one here - the logo of the Food Bank appears on the side of their building. You can read an article here:

but here's a better pic of the image (its wheat):