Artist happy after prank puts Rosie in the garden
Students hit outdoor exhibition and grab their statue
INSPIRED by grandiose tales from “old boys”, students from the University of Cape Town stole a statue of a girl from the Sea Point Promenade.
But in an act of reconciliation, artist Marieke Prinsloo- Rowe has donated the statue to the same students, who have nicknamed the sculpture “Rosie”, and are very proud to have her standing among the trees and flowers in their garden at the Kopano men’s residence.
Shortly before the students removed the statue from the promenade in early October, some “old boys” visited them for a weekend.
They entertained the students with fond memories of their hi-jinks, including how they had snatched stuff for fun during their student years in the 1960s and 1970s.
Leroy Nyarhi, head student of Kopano, which accommodates 360 students and is nicknamed “Kops”, said some of the old boys had told them how they had stolen entire metro buses, then parked them at the residence for a period of time.
“That inspired some Kops to say: ‘ Let’s see what we can do’. And because she’s a girl, and Kops men love women, they probably thought: ‘Let’s take her’.”
The sculpture is one in a sequence of 18 called Walking the road, which forms part of Prinsloo-rowe’s Wits University Masters degree. They were placed on the Promenade in June last year, in time for the World Cup.
They represent an analogy of South Africa’s democracy, depicted in a story of a young girl in a red and white striped bathing costume realising her dream of freedom, as symbolised by a dragonfly.
Prinsloo-rowe has unfortunately been kept busy fixing the statues ever since; they have been vandalised five times.
Traumatised after being forced to pick up the broken pieces during previous incidents, she was only too happy that the students had transported the statue without break- ing it. “Visually it’s so terrible to have to pick up a piece of a hand, a foot or a piece of arm.
“It’s hard to make peace with that. But the fact that they transported her carefully and whole, all the way there, that’s special,” the sculptor said.
She was first informed about the theft by a jogger who’d run past the statues.
Five days later, a UCT student’s father called to say his daughter’s boyfriend told him the statue was at Kopano.
The next morning Prinsloo-rowe tied a red ribbon around the base of the statue, drove to UCT and delivered the base to the students so that “Rosie” could be properly supported.
She also wrote them a letter, encouraging them “to use the same courage and ingenuity one day when you serve this country as citizens”.
The artist said of the students’ mischievous antics: “Students are animals of a different kind.
“It’s the time in your life when you have the most guts, but least thought of the consequences.”
Prinsloo-rowe received a letter from the head of student affairs to sincerely apologise for the disappearance of the statue.
Nyarhi said it was still unclear who stole the statue, but PrinslooRowe’s positive attitude meant there was no need to pursue a criminal investigation.
“We’re definitely keeping her. It’s memorable how she ended up here,” he said.
Prinsloo-rowe’s exhibition ends in January, but after everything she’s been through, the lasting feeling is one of pride.
“For every person who vandalises, there are hundreds of people supporting you. I received more than 400 e-mails of support, for which I’m so grateful,” she said.
Vandalism was the price she paid, but the benefits “are unbelievably special… Your art lives on in the conversations and thoughts of people. I feel incredibly proud,” she said.