Streets and statues: the identity politics of naming and public art in contemporary Durban
Orli Bass and Jennifer Houghton

In recent years, changing and new public symbols in Durban have been the source of much contestation. In particular, three state-led instances of urban inscription have generated debate: the renaming of streets; a statue tableau at the newly built King Shaka International Airport; and the suspended installation of a series of elephant statues on the main highway into the central business district. Public dissention over the rationale, selection and implementation process of new road names is ongoing and signs bearing the revised names have been regularly defaced. The completion of the controversial statues, designed in both cases by local artist Andries Botha, has been hampered by political intervention. These interventions have raised concerns regarding the role of art and politics and their relative influences in the landscaping of the city. Engagements between various actors, including government, politicians, traditional leadership and the broader citizenry, highlight the power relations invested in urban landscapes, as well as competing notions of place. By examining these struggles, this seminar explores the ongoing negotiation of representation in the contemporary South African city and thereby signals the ways in which identity formation is enmeshed in the politics of transformation.  

Orli Bass is Senior Project Officer at the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Jennifer Houghton is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography, University of the Free State. 

Date: Tuesday, 4 October 2011 

Time: 15:00-16:30  

Venue: ccrri seminar room, 2nd floor George Campbell building, South Campus, Howard College Campus. Use the south entrance into the building; and Entrance 3 on Rick Turner (Francois) Road if driving. Please refer to the ccrri website for a map (, click on ‘The Centre’ tab).

Enquiries: or 031 260 1599/3904/3902  

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