Reflections of Stellenbosch

The aim of the public sculpture exhibition in the South African city of Stellenbosch is to make art accessible to everyone – and stimulate reflections.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Stellenbosch outdoor sculptures, South Africa

Reflections. We them in the mirror in the morning, in shop windows as we walk along the street, when we check behind us while driving, in puddles after a storm.

Those are the physical reflections that surround us in our everyday lives.

Reflections. We also have them in the moments of happy memory, when we consider what something truly means, when we try to explain the past.

Those are the emotional reflections that give the everyday life.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

The image that stares back at us in a mirror is a truth – it is unmalleable and unavoidable. The image that we conjure up in our mind can be controlled and used to create others. It is far more powerful.

The relationship between these various reflections and us, as individuals, is what is being explored in a new public art exhibition in the South African city of Stellenbosch.

22 sculptures by different artists have been placed in the streets of the city centre, all within easy walking distance of each other.

Each of them uses the theme of ‘reflection’ as the inspiration for their piece.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

The decision to put the works out on the street was partly so that the artists could make the most of the interplay between the buildings and the art.

But it was also (and probably more importantly) so that the sculptures would be accessible to everyone who lived in or visited Stellenbosch – not just those who could afford to go to an exhibition or would naturally walk into a gallery.

The organisers of the ‘Public Art in Stellenbosch’ collection for 2015 put it like this:

“When we selected the theme, we were also thinking of the play of light on white historical walls and mirrored images in historical furrows and ourselves mirrored in reflective surfaces, but most artists chose to consider, reflect and meditate on contemporary issues.”

“We see public art as having the power to energise and transform the spaces where we live, work and play into more welcoming environments.”

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Rather than me explain what it is like to walk around these pleasant streets and see the art for yourself, let me just show you some images.

They are obviously two-dimensional and just from one angle, so you may have to use your imagination a bit – but that is the whole idea.

I’ve also included the short official description of each sculpture to give you a bit more of an insight into the mind of the artists.

Puzzled, Jaco Sieberhagen

Every morning we look in the mirror and only occasionally do we reflect on goals accomplished or goals missed; things thought important have become insignificant; truly important things in life neglected have left us poorer; should we rekindle old dreams, try to escape from our cage and refurbish our lives?

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Raindrops, Felix Mlungisi

The artistic representation of raindrops in popular culture is that of a teardrop. Rain and water is vital for all life on earth. Access to safe drinking water has improved over the last decades in almost every part of the world, but approximately one billion people still lack access to safe water.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Reflect on the Goat Woman, Eddie Tamsanga (Thami) Kitti

The artist’s themes are often associated with cultural practices such as ceremonies that mark the rites of passage. References include the slaughtering of a goat. We see a hybrid form – the head of a goat (it has a positive meaning) and the breasts of a young girl – signifying the rites of a girl being initiated as a woman.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Bullet proof, Lothar Böttcher

The protective windows salvaged from riot vehicles reflect the violent past we share. The glass panes suggest visual media. The artist wants to elicit a moment of thought from passers-by. The bullet proof windows should serve as a reminder of the challenge we face to build a collective future.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Vessel, Sanna Swart

In her work the artist tries to convey natural forms and evoke memories and emotions – emotions of tranquillity and security. She wishes to link viewers reflected in the vessel with their sacred inner spaces and with the earth. Vessel = any craft designed for transportation on water, a container of liquid or a person (as container of qualities or feelings).

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Conglomerate, Lenie Harley

The artist’s work deals with the concept of archaeology and the footprint of life on earth. The core tower reveals the documentation of time. Memories and past events are visible in the layers of extracted geological core. The reflections of us and our environment are evidence of our existence.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Pondering Possession of the Holy House, Ian Redelinghuys

The artist reflects on a delightful essay telling the story of the discovery of a site and the mythologizing of the House of Annunciation by the Empress Helena in 328AD. The Holy House is a prayer that dissolves and must be made again and again. Read the essay The Secret Lives of Buildings in the chapter The Wondrous Flitting of the Holy House in Edward Hollis’ book The Santa Casa of Loreto.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Landscape of Lines, Strijdom van der Merwe

The sky is reflected in the top beam and close-up the attention is drawn by the map. The site is the old historical Lutheran Church. But then time transforms the minimalist sculpture and at a certain time of day the installation casts a shadow in the shape of a cross on the church.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Niël Jonker, New Now

The artist is concerned with environmental relationships and process media. Here he reflects on his family’s origins and their connection with land by using soil gathered from landscapes of personal significance. The white washing of the sculptures symbolically conceals these pasts and, while also referencing Stellenbosch’s architectural environment, shows up the contemporary tendency to obfuscate memory.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Seismograph, Lyndi Sales

The artist has always been fascinated with movement and the notion that a small ripple resonates, accumulates and can transform into something else –such as described in the butterfly effect (chaos theory). The idea of this work began with reflecting on the earth’s movements and specifically the earthquake in Japan. Digital data recordings or charts of the seismographic readings, sound waves, wave currents, etc. are often starting points for her work.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Head: reflecting, Herman van Nazareth

The artist’s sculptures often depict universal messages concerned with man as outsider or oppressor. What do we see when we look in the mirror/water? The big, stolid, featureless heads may also suggest man experiencing difficulty in communicating.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Richmond, Jacques Buys

This is a bust of a proud Xhosa man named Richmond, who has made a new life for himself and his family in Stellenbosch. In a town where the white and coloured communities have so much history and a sense of place, this sculpture reflects the dignified face of someone who feels he is on the outside looking in; waiting to feel truly at home.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Monkey Business, Wilma Cruise

The artist’s work often has to do with the animal/human interface. Baboons and people in the Cape often confront each other across an abyss of incomprehension in a clash of wits and will. It is a meeting of nature and culture – the animal and the human. This is sometimes tragic and often humorous.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Reflect, Anton Smit

The artist is mainly concerned with man and show a group of seven life size female figures in conversation. The author Ralph W Emerson said that conversation is a game of circles – in conversation we pluck up the termini (end /boundary) which bound the common silence on every side.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Protea Bush, Cornelius Petrus (CP) Wessels

It is a personal attempt at representing a South African iconic shrub – the artist calls it an interconnected gauss. He reinterprets the familiar image and the context as a cultural mesh, as common ground.

public art in stellenbosch, sculptures, reflections

Time Travel Turtle was supported by Stellenbosch and its Wine Routes as part of an iambassador campaign but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

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