Artist happy af­ter prank puts Rosie in the gar­den

Stu­dents hit out­door ex­hi­bi­tion and grab their statue

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HENRIËTTE GELDENHUYS

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.

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