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Culture and Safety in Africa

Pieter Roos Park Artworks

Name of Artwork
Pieter Roos Park Artworks

Location and Accessibility
In Pieter Roos Park (cnr Empire and Victoria).

Level of Significance
Major Public Artworks Programme

About the Artworks
Due to its size, Pieter Roos Park boasts the largest number of significant individual artworks of the Hillbrow-Berea-Yeoville group of parks, the bulk of which were produced during the course of 2007-9 in the context of the HBY Public Art programme.

Marco Cianfanelli’s majestic The Messenger greets passing traffic and pedestrians from the southwest corner of the park. The sculpture – nearly 6 metres in height – was created from 12 identical laser-cut steel sections that were then welded together in a radial formation and bolted to the concrete plinth. The sculpture is designed so as to extend an equal greeting in all directions, and each out-stretched hand contains a distinct and emblematic figure of a different kind of Johannesburg resident – a clever encapsulation of the idea that the city belongs to all who live in it.

Americo Guambe’s Tree Stump sculptures can be found in different locations across the park. Carved out of tree stumps which would otherwise have been dug up and removed during the course of the upgrade of the park, the sculptures represent an innovative response to an existing feature of the park. The sculptor – who was also involved in the carving of the Newtown Heads (see entry 15) – has produced a very wide variety of forms based on a personal audit of what the sculptor thought could or should be found in the park. The sculptures subtly blend into the overall landscape of the park, causing small moments of surprise when they are recognised for what they are – a rabbit, a shoe or a millipede gently encroaching on the visitor’s consciousness.

Claire Regnard’s Performance Platform located in the middle of the park provides both seating and a structure from which the youth that populate the park can stage impromptu gatherings and performances – the park representing an important recreational space for youth from the adjacent apartments. The structure consists of steel of varying thickness cut into the organic shapes and welded together, with a variety of insect and plant forms laser cut into the individual sheets. The Performance Platform also cleverly incorporates one of Americo Guambe’s tree stump sculptures into its design.

In the north-eastern section of the park, the internationally famous South African graffiti artist Bruno Buccellato aka Rasty (assisted by fellow graffiti artist Curio) was commissioned to decorate the walls of the Johannesburg Parks building. He has created an extraordinary fantasy landscape, re-imagining both the world below the park, and the skies above it.

Leigh-Anne Niehaus was commissioned to produce signage and associated stepping-stones that show how the Braamfontein Spruit that runs through the park is connected to a larger system of streams and rivers that eventually feed into the Limpopo river. The artwork elegantly demonstrates how the location is linked into a large eco-system.

The Eduardo Villa Reclining Figure sculpture represents the residue of an earlier period in the history of the park – and the country. Located on a raised mound in the middle of the park, the work was made by Villa (also featured in entries 8 and 32) in 1970 and donated to the City of Johannesburg by Anglo American in 1984, when it was installed in the Park. It was intended as a play statue for children, though not custom-made for this purpose. After being covered in graffiti, the artwork was restored in 2006 and painted with a dark-blue paint in consultation with the artist. In spite of these efforts, the work has been subjected to various scrawlings on its surface.

About the Location
Named after a mayor of Johanneburg (1964-5), who was also the first chairman of the Johanneburg Civic Theatre Association, the park is the largest of the five parks in the Hillbrow-Berea-Yeoville neighbourhood. It serves as a point of connection between the Inner City and the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg. The small Braamfontein Spruit runs through it, enclosed with a palisade fence to avoid drowning incidents. A ramp allows pedestrians to walk over it. Flowing out from Hillbrow, the spruit also goes through the suburbs of Auckland Park, Parkview, Parkhurst, Craighall and Emmarentia; it joins the Jukskei River and then flows into the Crocodile and Olifants rivers, and finally into the great Limpopo River.