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​Ma Brr has her microphone back – the bronze sculpture of the late pop diva in Newtown has been restored after the mike was broken off.
THE broken mike on the Brenda Fassie bronze statue has been repaired and is back in position, at her shoulder. This artwork and eight others will soon to be handed over to the City for safekeeping.

Brenda Fassie sits at the entrance to Bassline across Mary Fitzgerald SquareBrenda Fassie sits at the entrance to Bassline across Mary Fitzgerald SquareOne of nine public artwork memorials placed by The Sunday Times in Johannesburg in 2006 to celebrate the weekly’s centenary, the works have recently received a dash of paint and a cleaning. The bronze sculpture of Fassie, by Angus Taylor, is positioned outside The Bassline in Newtown. It had lost its microphone, believed to have been broken off by raucous revellers from the club.

The life-size Fassie is perched on a barstool with a mike in front of her. Next to her is another barstool, an invitation to passers-by to take a seat and chill with the diva for a while.

The Sunday Times placed just over 30 works around the country – nine in Joburg, nine in Cape Town, eight in Eastern Cape and six in Durban. They commemorate the country’s remarkable newsmakers and events over the past century. The idea was that the project would promote a national identity by acknowledging a range of South African voices and experiences across racial, religious, sexual and cultural lines.

The City’s arts, culture and heritage department asked the paper to assess and make necessary repairs to the works, with a view to handing them over to the City, once the repairs had been completed. The City will then insure the works, and undertake continued maintenance of them.

Jacqui Gunn, the business manager of Avusa Media, the holding company under which The Sunday Times falls, confirmed that on completion of the work in a week or two, they would be handed over to the City. The company was considering handing over the nine works in Cape Town to that city council, she added.

The idea for the handover comes from Eric Itzkin, the deputy director of immovable heritage in the department. Final approval for the City taking over the works, however, rests with the mayoral committee member for community development, Chris Vondo.

At the time of its unveiling, in March 2006, Taylor said he created the sculpture with a stool next to it to encourage people to interact with the sculpture. He took numerous quotes of hers and embossed them into the bronze in tiny letters, making the sculpture even more interactive as passers-by have to get up close to read them.

Nine memorials
The nine memorials in Joburg are:

Brenda Fassie, pop diva, in Newtown, by Angus Taylor;
Tsietsi Mashinini, June 16 1976 hero, in Soweto, by Johannes Phokela;
Lilian Ngoyi, struggle heroine, in Orlando West, by Stephen Maqashela;
Raymond Dart, discoverer of the Taung skull, on Wits University campus, by Marco Cianfanelli;
Duma Nokwe, first black advocate in the country, in Pritchard Street, by Lewis Levin;
Mohandas Gandhi and the burning of passes at the Hamidia Mosque in Newtown, by Usha Seejarim;
Heritage Hot Seat in Rosebank, by Theresa-Anne Mackintosh;
Bethuel Mokgosinyana, who formed the Orlando Pirates soccer team, in Orlando West, by Sam Nhlengethwa; and,
Death in Detention outside the former John Vorster Square, now the Joburg Central Police Station, a place of torture and death of seven in detention, by Kagiso Pat Mautloa.
The artists were selected on the basis of their prior knowledge of the person, event or site. The works are made of a range of materials – mosaic, bronze, steel, glass, brick, cast iron, Perspex and stone.

“All of the sculptures are in relatively good condition, except for the Tsietsi Mashinini, Brenda Fassie and Mohandas Gandhi artworks, which all require significant interventions. All the other sites are generally well maintained and the sculptures well looked after,” Brendan Copestake, the project manager for the restoration of the works, wrote in his report.

Repair work like a new coat of paint, treating rust or the replacement of several tiles, has been undertaken. The weather has tarnished all the ceramic plaques, and they will be replaced with plastic and glass plaques.

The Mashinini wall in Soweto perhaps needed the most work – graffiti had to be painted over and tiles replaced. A fence has now been placed around the wall.

Copestake said that several of the works, in private gardens in Orlando East and West, had to be sensitively handled. At first, owners of the properties had been reluctant to hand over the works for maintenance, until they had guarantees that he was authorised to take them away.

“It has been a rewarding project,” he added.

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