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C FOR THE CITY (article first published : 2004-06-23)

Two years ago, Cell C'sC for the City art campaign first transformed downtown Johannesburg into the largest outdoor art gallery in the world. The canvas consisted of 200,000 square metres - the equivalent of 330 soccer fields. Recently, Cape Town warmed up to the embrace of the multi-storey artworks.

A few days ago, eThekwini Metro deputy mayor Logie Naidoo unveiled the C for the City initiative by lighting local artist Doung Johangeer's work. Taking up an entire side of New Commercial City in Commercial Road, the painting is a glorious celebration of the city's archetype cable car.

Some 11 Durban-based artists were commissioned to produce works reflecting their impressions of the city and the people who live, work and play in it. The outcome was the production of powerful artworks, ranging from paintings, handcraft, wire basketry and beadwork, which have been reproduced, blown up and mounted on the sides of multi-storey buildings in the inner city.

“We believe in the future of Durban and, for that matter, KwaZulu-Natal," said Cell C chief corporate and strategy officer S'bu Mngadi. "C for the City attests to our commitment to boost local art, help transform the inner city and give expression to the hitherto untapped creative spirit of the inner city." According to Mngadi, the brief for artists was deliberately kept as broad as possible to trigger off a creative response. The results are a kaleidoscope of colours that promise to transform the inner city landscape," he said. "The artworks are as diverse as the people who call this great city their home."

It was the enthusiasm and challenge demonstrated by the artists themselves that made the art campaign a success. Coming from different cultural backgrounds, the artists shared one common denominator: their passion for Durban inner city.

On Victoria Embankment, Clinton de Menezes' piece speaks directly to the harbour that it faces. A response to the idea of Durban as a major trading route, De Menezes' c-shaped harbour is a stunning image that celebrates the city's economic activity and potential, whilst simultaneously responding directly to the brief that called for all artists to include “a natural c-shape” in the artwork.

One of the most visible of the works is by well-known Durban conceptual artist Doung Jahangeer. This work is a glorious celebration of the city's archetype cable car, the medium that has given so many holidaymakers such pleasure in the beach city. Enlarged from a small original to take up almost an entire side of New Commercial City, Doung's piece is an unexpected ride in the sky for anyone looking up in Durban.

As a young man Elliot Mkhize attended the Ndaleni art school in Ixopo, KwaZulu Natal, under the guidance of Lorna Pearson. At Ndaleni, he learned the techniques of grass basketry practised in rural KwaZulu Natal, and while working as a security officer, he perfected the skills of wire basketry. His Mkhize works are represented in The Campbell Collection and other national art collections. Mkhize has also taught his craft skills in a Telkom sponsored programme to other cultural practitioners.

Born in 1951, Madala Kunene began his musical career busking on Durban's beachfront at the age of seven. Making his first guitar out of a cooking oil tin and fish gut for strings, he soon became a popular performer in the townships. He went professional in the 70's, and in the 90's teamed up with the dance troupe Woza Africa where he wrote, sang and played guitar. In 1993 B&W (later Melt2000) gave him his recording break and he performed on Freedom Countdown produced by Sipho Gumede, and has subsequently become an invaluable member of a great many Melt projects. Madala's solo album K'onko Man recorded in 1995, is considered a musical gem.

A highly acclaimed teacher, thinker, guitarist, lyricist and published poet, Syd Kitchen has released several albums to date; all born of an eclectic spirit unfazed by market-place considerations or the wishes of others. He performs extensively at Festivals and clubs throughout South African, both solo and with various combinations. He lives in Durban, where he teaches music at his school of fretboard logic, while finishing his MA/Ph.D. in Musicology with the University of Natal.

S'fiso ka Mkame was born in Durban in 1963 and in 1982, he trained in art at the Abangani Open School in Durban. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Durban and has his work represented in public and private collections in the country. His work is vibrantly colourful and highly charged, focusing on African symbols and on masks, which represent the ancestors and attempt to set up a communication with the spirits. Both figurative and patterned, these dynamic artworks tell many tales which convey a spirit of Africa.

Up on Hasler House, there is an embroidered and beaded-cloth by S'phindile Nkosi and Pretty Zulu. Again, the work is completely permeated with the rich colour, texture and craftwork for which the holiday city is so famous, but this time the content is a celebration of the ordinary amongst us, (in this case a woman sitting under a big umbrella), who nevertheless, make us so exceptional.

A fine art and design graduate, Terry-Anne Stevenson taught art and design for may years in formal and informal workshops. Between 1975 and 1982 she lived in Ireland and created woven wall hangings - the starting point of the weavings from her watercolours sketches of the Irish Landscape. She illustrated a watercolour collection of Irish Bog Botanicals. She was also co-ordinator of numerous murals throughout South Africa, particularly the Joko tea sponsored commission of 30 murals in townships throughout the country.

Deaf artist Thabani Msomi has a collection of black and white woodcut prints in the BAT Centre's Democratic Gallery. The works on this exhibition, which is titled My Talent, are finely produced and interesting in content. What Msomi is not able to say in words, he expresses with resonance in his art. Zahira Motala is a 21-year old Durban-based artist painting landscapes, oil stretched canvas. She shows a passion for architectural form, especially the Islamic iconography that is so much a feature of Durban City. Motala teaches Islamic culture to children and has some experience making mosaic pieces under the mentorship of Deanne Donaldson.

Zamani Makhanya studied art at Fort Hare University, obtaining a BA(FA) in 1984 and an H DE in 1985 at the same university. He has participated in group exhibitions in Durban and his work is represented in private collections in SA and abroad.




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