ENTRANCE TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
BELFAST BLACK GRANITE
VARIOUS SHAPES AND SIZES
The artwork Long Shadows is situated on the grounds of the old awaiting-trial block at the very entrance to the New Constitutional Court. The work is made in black granite, taken from mountains near the town of Belfast in Mpumalanga. The black granite is cut up and inlaid as seven flat shapes into the floor.
To the east, the artwork portrays the shadows of four hopeful prisoners, namely a young person, a woman and two men. Their shadows are cast from east to west and run uneven along the rough terrain. The prisoners' arduous day begins with the morning sun behind them, to the east, coming up over Hillbrow. They have waited stoically for days on end, facing the long, unforgiving hours, until their shadows stretched out far in front of them. The balances of justice prove merciless and unkind and with shattered hope they are rendered imaginary shades in an imaginary place of waiting - lost souls biding time in limbo. Nevertheless, because there is still a flicker of hope that they might, against all odds, win their cases and go free, their shadows remain slightly erect.
To the far western side of the awaiting-trial block, at the foot of some stairs, there are three more shadows, this time cast in the opposite direction, from west to east. These shadows are more dejected, hunched over. Their cases were still not heard, or have not been finalised and their fate was still hanging in the balance. The number of shadows had diminished from four to three because some of those awaiting trial have moved on - either to prison or, for the lucky few, to freedom. Behind them, in the evening sun, are the foggy skies of SOWETO (South-Western Townships) and Triomf, places where they had suffered heartless abandon, places of little hope.
Being an accused in a court case in the old South Africa was generally frustrating, painful and traumatic. Punishment was harsh, especially on blacks, considered to be second-class citizens and accusations often made no sense at all. One could easily land in court for getting on the wrong bus or train. Members of the South African Police often delighted in and saw promotion in the air when catching a luckless character sitting on the wrong park bench or trying to buy drinks at the wrong side of the counter. The police were ruthless in rounding up suspects. One could easily swim at the wrong beach, be in the wrong suburb at the wrong time of day or show affection to a really pretty girl from the dubious extraction of colour. One had to be careful what one said or wrote and to whom. And then there were those baffling pass-book offences - the place was an utter social nightmare to most peace-loving individuals.
Visitors, especially children may reflect on the heartbreaking memories by standing at the feet of the almost-forgotten prisoners, imagining that the endless shadows are their own. Long Shadows the artwork helps us and future generations to empathise with the torment of multitudes of people who were kept endlessly and unfairly within this nowhere land of despair, to remember the injustices of the past. It brings homage to those who, with their bodies and their souls, have suffered in a harsh and humiliating way.
Today the awaiting-trial block is only an imaginary building. Its walls were broken down to make way for new the Constitutional Court building. The traces and towers that were left behind are defeated and the haunting and disturbing ghosts of the once feared place are tamed. At last, from the new open ground, we see the sun clearly and we become one with those shadows that had set us free.