Cape Town’s unique mixture of cultures and communities has shaped the city to become the a cosmopolitan and vibrant metropolis it is today. However, it hasn’t always been a smooth transition. The city’s turbulent past has given its artists plenty to think about, and the museums, parks and plazas are home to fascinating pieces of sculpture by South African and international creatives. We pick the best places to find some of Cape Town’s finest three-dimensional art.
If you walk around the V & A Waterfront, you will eventually across four larger-than-life bronzed gentlemen standing pensively in a row. The sculptures are of the late Nkosi Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former State President F.W. de Klerk and former President Nelson Mandela. They were created by internationally acclaimed artist Claudette Schreuders, they reflect the puzzle of the search of an African identity post-apartheid. The fifth sculpture in the square, “Peace and Democracy”, created by Noria Mabasa, acknowledges the contribution of women and children to the attainment of peace in the country.
V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa +27 (0)86 132 2223 (Cape Town Tourism)
Cape Town artist Brett Murray created ‘Africa’ as part of the second Public Sculpture Competition in 1998. The piece was unveiled on 26 May 2000 in St George’s Mall where it intersects Waterkant Street. It is a challenging and controversial piece of art, three meters high, cast in bronze and adorned with yellow heads of Bart Simpson. The work talks about issues of Africa and America in the late 20th century, and raises the issues of Afro- versus Euro- centricism, and indigenous versus Western culture.
Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town 8000 +27 (0)86 132 2223 (Cape Town Tourism)
Arm Wrestle Podium
Ohann van der Schijff’s Arm Wrestle Podium (AWP) is both a functional and figurative piece of work. Located on the patio of the Association for Visual Arts, it presents a communal platform where disputes can be settled by means of physical arm wrestling, allowing for a definite outcome to be determined in public. A set of rules is also attached to the podium, written in four languages – English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and braille.
35 Church St, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa +27 21 424 7436
Erected during South Africa’s transition to democracy, itThis piece is a celebration of the diversity of the country’s population. Made from Core-Ten steel and bronze, the structure inverts the Tower of Babel myth – instead of difference becoming the catalyst for diaspora and isolation, here on the ‘tower’, mythological creatures start the process of finding one another. Surrounded by giant slab-like modern skyscrapers, the complexities of the composition contrast the environment in which the sculpture stands.
Long St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa +27 (0)86 132 2223 (Cape Town Tourism)
South African National Gallery
The premier art gallery in South Africa is the home of outstanding collections of African, Dutch, British, and Flemish art in every medium. ‘The Butcher Boys’ by Jane Alexander is one of the gallery’s most famous sculptures. Created in the mid-80s, it was a response to the state of emergency declared in the country during a time of uncertainty and transition. The hybridised ‘boys’, part human, part animal, reflect the complicated notion of identity and identification and the dehumanizing nature of apartheid.
Opening hours: 10am-5pm
Government Ave, Company’s Garden, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa +27 (0)21 481 3970