An enormous piece of permanent public art, depicting the late Anton Lembede has been installed on the corner of Anton Lembede Street (formerly Smith Street) and Six Durban Club Place to mark the start of the regeneration of Durban Club Place, a dedicated professional and legal quarter in central Durban.
Anton Lembede (1914–1947) is most famous as the founding President of the African National Congress Youth League. Less well known is that he was also a qualified attorney (serving articles of clerkship under Dr Pixley KaSeme) qualifying in 1945. He died from natural causes just two years later at the age of 33 but had already gained prominence as a rising lawyer of note, known for taking exceptional care in preparing his cases. Described as “the principal architect of South Africa’s first fully-fledged ideology of African nationalism” Lembede – who was multi lingual and fluent in many languages, had a strong influence on Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.
The artwork, entitled Anton Lembede Bachelor of Law, is the largest privately funded public art piece in KZN and one of the largest in the country, covering just under 600sqm.
“Research shows that public art plays a very important part in urban regeneration, by making an immediate impact and land-mark statement in a city as well as offering people a sense of place, hope and history,” says Jonny Friedman CEO of commercial property specialists Urban Lime.
Urban Lime Properties commissioned artist Sakhile Mhlongo, a DUT graduate who has also painted portraits of several prominent figures for the city of Durban. His depiction is of a full length Anton Lembede the lawyer, wearing a trim suit in shades of charcoal, carrying his legal briefcase, striding purposefully towards court. Mhlongo said “I am honoured to be part of such an important step in the regeneration of the city I love.”
Andrew Layman consultant to the KZN branch of South African Property Owners Association said “If you have a big player with that level of commitment to improvement it can make a significant difference. Friedman is championing Durban and it is what the city needs. The artwork is a symbol of the beginning of a revival.”
“This piece is a direct nod to the extraordinary legal profession in this country and to the youth of South Africa. Lembede was told ‘no’ a thousand times, yet he persevered, becoming a qualified lawyer just prior to the dawn of the apartheid era, proving that the impossible really is possible,” said Friedman.
Durban Club Place is an urban regeneration project in central Durban, close to the Durban High Court. Urban Lime is leading the project which includes Six Durban Club Place (an established building for Advocates and also the home of the Bar of KZN) and Durban Club Chambers (the former Nedbank Building) which will become a national destination for the legal profession.
A public viewing of the art-piece from Durban Club Chambers will take place on February 1 at 18h00. It is a complementary event, open to all. It will include short-talks by international experts, followed by a lively public forum on the subject ‘Why public art is important to the regeneration of inner cities’. RSVP to www.FutureDurban.co.za