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July 30, 2009

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S. African capital in awe of big sculpture

SOUTH Africa's bustling commercial capital paused for art yesterday, with an unveiling ceremony for a monumental sculpture on a downtown traffic island.

A four-story sculpture welded from jagged sheets of steel is hard to veil. So what was revealed yesterday in Johannesburg - as passing commuter vans honked and trains rumbled under a nearby bridge - was a plaque with the names of the South African artists who created it: William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx.

Kentridge, among South Africa's best-known artists, has drawings, paintings and sculpture in major collections around the world.

He ventures into directing next year with a production of Dmitri Shostakovich's adaptation of "The Nose" premiering at New York's Metropolitan Opera.

The "Fire Walker" sculpture unveiled yesterday is Kentridge's first piece to go on public display in the city, his hometown.

From the south, Marx's three-dimensional conception of a Kentridge watercolor at first appears to be a comment on urban debris, resembling giant scraps of paper kicked up by the winds.

Some can make out a sketch of a striding miner, Kentridge's tribute to the workers who unearthed the gold that built Johannesburg.

From the north, the black and white puzzle shapes make a silhouette of a "fire walker" ?? a woman carrying on her head a brazier that Johannesburg vendors use to roast corn or meat to sell to commuters.
Joy Jacobs of the city's economic development agency said the Kentridge-Marx sculpture cost about 1 million rand (US$130,000) from the public art fund, "practically a donation" from the artists.


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