Residents fume as 'dangerous' Cape Town rock art destroyed

22 June 2020 - 20:14 By BOBBY JORDAN
Cape Town rock sculptor Sipho Njengezi starts to rebuild some of his rock stacks at a spontaneous 'rock garden' adjoining Cape Town's Dalebrook tidal pool.
Cape Town rock sculptor Sipho Njengezi starts to rebuild some of his rock stacks at a spontaneous 'rock garden' adjoining Cape Town's Dalebrook tidal pool.
Image: Bobby Jordan

A spontaneous outcrop of rock sculptures in Kalk Bay has been demolished by the City of Cape Town due to concerns about public safety.

The eye-catching rock stacks - sometimes referred to as menhirs - adjoining the popular Dalebrook tidal pool had been steadily growing in number during lockdown, courtesy of local residents and occasional visitors.

However, they were toppled over on Monday morning, reportedly by city staff working in the area.

The "managed rockfall" prompted debate on social media, with several residents voicing disappointment.

“This action happens in the broader context of shacks and gardens being demolished by the city all over,” said one commentator on a Kalk Bay WhatsApp group.

“This is just a tiny middle class taste of what residents in other neighbourhoods go through. We need to find more ways to exercise democracy. Maybe the area could have been aesthetically demarcated in some way as a temporary art gallery, with an indemnity notice from the city on the walkway?” another person suggested.

Another resident said it was the second field of menhirs built in the past few years.

“I know it’s a wrench to see them all demolished, but in a way they are an interactive piece. They’ll be built again, by the same or different sculptors, and knocked again by the weather or by people.”

Although the city did not immediately confirm ordering the sculptures to be destroyed, one eyewitness told TimesLIVE that the team responsible had referred queries to the council.

The art had been widely reported in the media, with two artists coming forward to explain their motivation. One of them, who wished to remain anonymous, said he started balancing rocks as a way of peacefully protesting the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

“I just thought, stuff this, I don’t care if they come to arrest me – I’ll run away,” he told a local newspaper.

Sipho Njengezi explains why he wants to rebuild some of his rock stacks in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.
Sipho Njengezi explains why he wants to rebuild some of his rock stacks in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.
Image: Bobby Jordan

Another rock artist, Sipho Njengezi, was busy rebuilding rock stacks when TimesLIVE visited the site on Monday afternoon. He said he sympathised with the public safety concerns, but still felt people should be allowed to express themselves.

“Maybe one can make them not quite as high,” he suggested.

Njengezi said the demolition was not too upsetting because this kind of art was temporary in nature.

Another local resident concurred that “land art is temporary and transient – that’s the point of it for me”.

Rock stacking or balancing is considered an ancient form of both installation and performance art. It is also considered a form of meditation or mindfulness. 

The city had not responded by the time of publishing. This story will be updated.


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