Commemorating the Marikana Massacre
On August 14th 2014 several prominent statues within the city centre and the southern suburbs of Cape Town got redressed in green blankets, equipped with miner gear or carrying grocery bags. The statues – mainly of which represent colonial figures – were redressed in light of what has come to be known as the Marikana Massacre: the shooting of 34 miners by the local police force of Marikana, South Africa on August 16th, 2012.
The initiative formed one of the nine interventions curated by the African Arts Institute (AFAI) in association with artists, activists and other civil society groups. These interventions addressed the public consciousness two years after the event by highlighting the humanness of the miners.
Statues clad in the green blanket symbolized a man named Mgcineni from Thwalikhulu, leader of the miners known only by the green blanket he wore about his shoulders and who was one of the first to be killed in the shooting spree. The grocery bags referred to the fact that many of the miners at Marikana mined for food and other basics in order to survive.
The intervention received national coverage particularly through the repetition of the news insert by eNCA as well as through social media.
AFAI’s Public Art Intervention Project – of which the Marikana commemoration was part – is funded by the Prins Claus fund. It was launched to promote and defend democracy, human rights and freedom of expression through public art. The project is intended to put provocative, creative practices into the public domain that will confront passers-by and initiate debate. Furthermore, the project is intended to encourage artists and community groups to engage in creative and innovative public actions to protest; to provoke dialogue about the issues raised in the project, as well as about the role and nature of art in contemporary South Africa; and to inspire artists in other countries to take similar action.