Duma Nokwe Monument

Landmarks / Memorials in or near Johannesburg Central, Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa.

Gauteng Tourist AttractionsDuma Nokwe Monument

Where? Johannesburg High Court, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg

Overnight? Stay in Johannesburg Central, in Gauteng

You will find the Duma Nikwe Monument outside the Johannesburg High Court, near the law courts, on Pritchard Street in downtown Johannesburg.

Designed by artist Lewis Levin, the two-metre-high piece of art is a homage to the first black advocate admitted to the Johannesburg Bar - a rather hollow honour, when faced with the reality of practising as an advocate.

Duma was to beat his nearest rival, Nelson Mandela, to the honour as the country's first black advocate, in March 1956.

He went on to share George Bizos' chambers, illegally, from 1956 to 1962 after the Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrik Verwoerd, turned down his application to have chambers in His Majesty's Building.

Nokwe also suffered the humiliation of his own robing room and toilet in the Pretoria Court. Non-whites were not admitted to the Common Room.

In his Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela describes how he made the decision to use Duma Nokwe, one of the 30 accused, as the only advocate in the Treason Trial.

The trialists were expected to manage without their lawyers for more than five months, under the State of Emergency, making any consultations between the accused and their lawyers virtually impossible.

The group then took a decision to mount a defence without their lawyers. Mandela and Duma Nokwe prepared the case with the major strategy of dragging out the case until the State of Emergency was lifted and the lawyers could return.

The two-dimensional monochromatic monument has been cleverly designed to look like newspaper print and was part of the Sunday Times Centenary Heritage Project, which selected local artists to produce 40 memorial art works placed around the country to celebrate its 100th birthday, and to promote national identity.

The light-filtering screen is Levin's signature medium and behind it is the idea to 'almost produce a photographic image that is a ghost.' Levin considered his work an 'urban image' - the two-metre high flat metal structure captures the image of Duma Nokwe's face using laser-cut holes in metal.

The upgrades to this part of Johannesburg has meant that advocates have once again opened chambers in the neighbourhood. The Johannesburg High Court, designed by Gordon Leith, was built at the height of the Victorian era, and its bronze dome is a landmark in the city centre.

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