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Statues, symbols and signages: Monuments towards socio-political divisions, dominance and patriotism? Kelebogile T. The focus of this article is on monuments variously referred to as statues, symbols, signages, busts, icons etc. The words are used interchangeably. Three words are highlighted to represent a common concept. These are statues, symbols and signages. The South African history with its painful experience of the indigenous inhabitants is highlighted and how symbols had to change in to represent the aspirations of the new democratic dispensation.

Biblical reflections on monuments demonstrate the importance of these symbols during the Old and the New Testament times. The two symbols singled out to reinforce this notion are the Holy Communion and the cross. The significance and potency of the monuments is explained and conclusion drawn is that symbols are valuable for didactive purpose because they serve as teaching aids.

They also serve the memory for generations to come so that they know how God's faithfulness has been demonstrated in the national history of Israel, therefore serving missiological function of the church today. From time immemorial, apart from oracles, people asserted their origin, meaning, ethnicity, piety, religion and power through images. From the coin in the pocket to the sculptures that gazed down on walking people around the city and the cultic centres, or the agora, emperors and elites made statements about their piety, cultural knowledge and prowess.

The literature on iconography points to statues, symbols or monuments focusing on feminine sexuality and male artificial deity Hersey ; Nasrallah Nakedness, pleasure, virility, dexterity, divinity and ethnicity seem to have taken centre stage crafted in statues, symbols, icons, monuments and sculptures. Iconography leans more towards religious symbols than secular symbols such as statues, busts, monuments etc. Religion is extensively coloured with monumentalisation:. Monuments more than often have a spiritual character and iconic value, in the sense that they offer a space for the formation or discovery of meaning.


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Cilliers Monuments such as statues play an important symbolic role in people's lives, with each monument being built for specific reasons and intended to serve particular purposes or interests. Monuments are erected as part of a visual culture that continually reminds us of something or someone important; yet, the symbolic value of monuments may change.

Such values may acquire or lose importance, depending on fluctuating socio-political dispensations and dispositions. In this article, various words are used interchangeably as they convey the same meaning and outcome. Words used include statues, symbols, signs, icons, monuments, busts, memorials or memorabilia, emblems and in some places, sepulchres.

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A statue is a sculpture representing a person or persons, an animal or an event, normally full length, as opposed to a bust. A statue comes at a huge price as is made of materials like clay, marble, resin, bronze, porcelain, fibre glass etc. The latest contentions for statues, especially of the former President of South Africa, are always attached more to the cost than any significance. For instance, in the North-West Province, the opposition parties argued that President Zuma's statue is costly and funds could be directed elsewhere for poverty alleviation in the province.

Not only is a price attached to statues but also the aesthetics and admiration, as Bobou asserts:. But statues were more than objects of admiration. Their cost, quantity, and placement, as well as the types used for the representation of gods and mortals show that their role was far more important than that of a decorative object that could be admired for its technique, style, or subject.

This theme on statues had become prevalent in South Africa since 09 March when the students of University of Cape Town cried and appealed for the fall of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes which occupied the intersectional space of institutional public entrance. The statue of Rhodes was targeted as the man was a megalomaniac British colonialist. His legacy will always be attached to the Glen Grey Act - a policy that became a blueprint for the consequent apartheid legislations restricting black people to the access and ownership of the land.

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This culminated into the formalised migrant labour system that broke the family and communal ethos of the indigenous people. In the words of Headley and Kobe , the man built:. The statues and the busts of Rhodes suffered sporadic setbacks, nationwide, after the dawn of democracy. A memorable example was in Mahikeng:.


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When a part of the old town station was demolished in the mids to make way for a shopping mall, the statue was moved to an inauspicious location at the Mahikeng Transnet train yard. It was this relative obscurity that signaled its last days in Mahikeng, the northern town that was a key stop in Rhodes's ambitious Cape-to-Cairo rail project.

Cecil John Rhodes' statues were vandalised and defaced as they represented the ensuing colonial dominance and power, while those of Hedrick Francois Verwoerd suffered the same as they represented apartheid history and its anomalies. It looks like Verwoerd's statues and busts were the most targeted throughout South Africa, for obvious reasons, as the man who within 8 years as a Minister of Native Affairs:. Allighan xi. Following the emergence of democracy in South Africa, the Free State Province slumped into media turmoil by removing the statue of H.

One newspaper reported:. Just as the Berlin wall and statues of Lenin came down in recent years, the statue of Hendrik Verwoerd, the Prime Minister who drew the map of segregation and imposed inferior education on blacks, was wrested from his place in front of the provincial offices of the Orange Free State during a Friday afternoon rush hour.

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In , just before the local government elections, the Democratic Alliance - the main opposition party in South African politics 'removed a statue of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, in Midvaal, south of Gauteng'. The majority of South Africans continue to refuse 'Hendrik Verwoerd as a "figure of memory" that can be emulated, more importantly, as an image that can inspire collective identity' Dube The statue of Chief Lucas Mangope of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana was removed from the Lehurutshe Civic Centre, near Zeerust, contrary to the district's residents.

A North-West communication service press statement on 21 September , on the removal of former Bophuthatswana president Lucas Mangope's statue from the Lehurutshe Civic Centre, quotes then North-West chief whip Joe Selau as saying that: 'the mandate of the people has been carried out'.

This was despite Lehurutshe residents complaining that they weren't consulted by the government about the removal. The North-West Provincial took this decisive step as a pragmatic action of deleting Bophuthatswana from the memory of the citizenry in that geographical part of the country. The action is expected to spread all over the country as a means of pioneering the new patriotic spirit of the new democratic dispensation.

One reads, hears and sees of the sporadic actions against or for statues through South Africa. The University of Cape Town students' action morphed into a spiral wave of protests, culminating into unprecedented debates regarding statues and busts around the country. Consequently, statue removals at the Union Building in Pretoria and in front of the parliament in Cape Town and some other cities and towns around the country instigated some robust discussions.

This sends a clear message for transparent national discourse:. The wave to dismantle all statues attached to the history of colonialism, apartheid and white supremacy; it is not just a battle for public space but one of identity and belonging.

Statues had become a bone of contention. This is because of the historical marginalisation of the indigenous leaders and heroes who played some inexpressible roles in liberation struggles and the development of the particular geographic inhabitants. In the heritage archives and memorabilia, the efforts of these heroes were ignored, unrecorded or unrecognised. For instance, when the Batswana chiefs tried to abort the Boers invasion of their land:. Montshiwa responded by appealing for British intercession while simultaneously trying to enlist the support of Batswana allies sympathetic to his cause.

He approached the Bahurutshe under Ikalafeng in the Marico district, who sent a regiment under his uncle to assist the Tshidi Barolong. As the Hurutshe were resident in the Transvaal, this did not sit well with the Boer authorities.

Anticipating an attack, Ikalafeng placed stone fortifications around his capital at Dinokana. In February a commando was sent against the Bahurutshe, and Dinokana was captured without a shot being fired. The stone fortifications were pulled down and piled up as a so-called 'monument to peace'.

A monument honouring Chief Montshiwa exists in Mafikeng and should be included in the national liberation heritage route.

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Very few people, if any, would know anything about Chief Montshioa's monument, or the sefikantswe that is found in Dinokana today. There are hundreds of these landmarks throughout the country, but were never given a rightful position of recognition. Instead the colonial and apartheid figures are prominently situated in cities, platteland dorpies , institutions and heritage sites across the land. The reaction can be justified, rightly or wrongly, because the nation is still divided and attached to imbalances of the past.

As Headley and Kobe point out:. Current challenges around social cohesion amidst harsh inequalities in South Africa are shaped by the legacy of imperialism, colonialism and apartheid. Colonial disruption and imposition of foreign cultures upon the social fabric of African life wrecked the conceptual frameworks of the indigenous inhabitants of Africa.

This was brutality legalised under the apartheid.