The Firewalker

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

Gauteng Tourist AttractionsThe Firewalker

Where? The Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Newtown, Johannesburg, Gauteng

Overnight? Stay in Newtown, in Gauteng

The Firewalker is an 11 metre sculpture by South African artists William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx, on the Queen Elizabeth bridge in Newtown, Johannesburg.

The sculpture shows a women one might see on the streets of everyday Johannesburg, carrying a brazier on her head. In it are live coals, which she will, in due course, set up on the side of the road somewhere to roast mielies, or sheep heads, to sell to passersby.

The two artists were commissioned to produce the public sculpture, based on a drawing by William Kentridge, for the City of Johannesburg in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. These street vendors are known locally as fire walkers.

The Queen Elizabeth Bridge used to be used by informal traders and taxi washers.

The Firewalker isn't the typical bronze edifice traditionally associated with public sculpture. Rather, it is made up of steel plates that only become a coherent image when viewed from one particular vantage point. Every other view is merely a collection of black and white fragments, or parts.

The topic an ordinary, everyday woman, rather than a grand public office-bearer was a challenge to construct and install, and took only six weeks to do so.

Well known photographer and political commentator, David Goldblatts, captured a photograph of the sculpture in December 2011, just after a copper cable theft left the base of the sculpture scattered with paving stones, when the electric copper cable connecting the sculpture and another post was tied to a rope, hitched to the back of a bakkie, and then ripped out of the ground.

He named his photograph: The City, the Firewalker and the aftermath of copper cable theft.

David Goldblatt has photographed South African structures that express the conflicted history, values and power relationships of the country for over three decades.

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