Amazing new artwork unveiled yesterday in Braamfontein

Yesterday, on the iconic Wiomen’s Day date of 9th August a brand new bold tribute to the women of Johannesburg has been unveiled in the form of the 10-storey (30 metre) Ndzundza portrait in Braamfontein.

The unique ground-breaking portrait is set to become an icon in the Johannesburg landscape and serves as a bold tribute to the women of Africa’s most vibrant city.

Commissioned by City Property as part of their commitment to rejuvenation and urban renewal of the Johannesburg city centre, the Ndzundza/Nzunza Portrait rises up alongside the North City House building in the trendy neighbourhood of Braamfontein, showcasing a blend of modern, traditional and cultural values inherently found in all of Africa’s women.

“When we started the upgrade of the building, the building was covered with old mosaic style tiles. We investigated possible options including cladding, texture and a public art piece. We wanted something that is proudly South African and speaks to the energy that encompasses Jozi,” says Jeffrey Wapnick, managing director of City Property.

“The architects approached renowned artist Hannelie Coetzee and her concept was tied back to the original mosaic on the building. We loved the modern spin on it while still embracing the history about the Ndebele people.

“We have always used public art to start conversations about inner city rejuvenation. We’ve done numerous pieces in Tshwane but this impressive mural is our first major public art contribution to the city of Johannesburg. Our substantial investment through the upgrade of this property and the mural on the façade speaks to our confidence in the area and the city.

“We believe firmly in our vision of urban rejuvenation, creating an environment where the people of Johannesburg can eat, work and play, and this is part of our goal of creating an inner city centre through our properties that not only make Johannesburg proud, but will also showcase its uniqueness as an exceptional, vibrant and energetic part of Africa.

The huge 170m2 (5.7m x 30m) relief sculpture covers 65% of one wing of the commercial building and was created out of more than 2 000 plates, specialised tile adhesive, mesh, nails and anchors, and required months of planning.

During her research, Coetzee discovered that the Ndzundza Ndebele lived in the Highveld from the 1630’s until the late 1600’s. Like the spirit of Johannesburg today, they embraced a cultural inclusivity which often welcomed other ethnicities, such as Swazi and Basotho (p46. Forgotten World, Wits Press). Traces of this lifestyle were discovered on pottery that dated from the 17th century and through oral history research. That explains the use of crockery as the medium and Braamfontein as the perfect location. 

“The use of the monochromatic blue and turquoise crockery plates, saucers and bowls make the mural more abstract. Accented elements are in yellow and white crockery. I sourced it from various potteries and ceramic factories. I am thankful for an opportunity of this scale. The City Property team gave me the wonderful opportunity to work with complete conceptual freedom on a piece of this magnitude and intricacy.’ added Coetzee.

The successful installation was an easy task. The conceptual design took about three months and installation 10 weeks.

The mural was unveiled on Women’s Day and is located on the corner of Melle and Jorissen Streets in Braamfontein. The mural is illuminated at night.

*The alternative spelling of the title is inclusive of differing views from the community.

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