A Trip down Mosaic Lane.
On Saturday, July 9, 2022, I had the extraordinary privilege of joining 50 participants on a bus tour called “Moving with the Mosaic Master”. The knowledgeable Itzkin, who heads the Heritage Unit within the Directorate of Arts, Culture & Heritage, in the City of Johannesburg, guided the tour.
Artworks of community artist Drew Lindsay’s “1956-2021”, are dispersed across many sites in Johannesburg. As we climbed on and off the bus at 13 different locations, including Parktown, Braamfontein, Newtown, Marshalltown, Doornfontein, Troyeville, Kensington and Savoy, the artworks mirrored a kaleidoscopic view, thereby enabling us to extract and revisit long buried memories that many of us have lived in this City of Gold.
After visiting the elaborate and intricate mosaic work at the National Union of Mineworkers Head Office, (Rissik Street, Marshalltown) we stopped at the Enkomeni Taxi Rank, to visit the Resting Mosaic Cows. These seven larger than life cows hint at the longing for the rural that migrant workers must have felt whilst working in the city.
At this point, a Rasta minstrel who had been hanging out at the taxi rank unilaterally decided to join our tour. Refusing to get off the bus, he had decided that no matter where we were off to, he was joining us. There was something poetic about his arrival, in that our next stop was to the well known and loved Spaza Art Gallery (19 Wilhelmina Street, Troyeville). Over the last 20 years, there were many musical gigs in the courtyard, and this Rasta man who had randomly showed up, would have fitted right in. Lindsay founded the Spaza Art Gallery in 2001. One half of the semi-detached was his home and the other half housed the gallery. He later turned a portion of the semi into an Airbnb enticing artists and visitors from all over the world to a slice of Troyeville life.
Lindsay was a community artist, who charged substantially low commissions in that way creating opportunities for many. A trust has been formed to continue the Spaza gallery, thus enabling the work and livelihoods of many of the artists connected to the gallery to continue.
Amongst Lindsay’s many passions was his love of dance. He trained as a Biodanza (Dance of Life) facilitator, and elected to share his passion with a largely immobilized community at Park Care, many of who were suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was a joy to witness this gentle giant of a man coax many of them out of their inertia. He reopened portals that had people tapping their feet, stepping out of their wheelchairs, smiling, gesticulate and dance with carers and one another.
Our last visit was to the recently erected artwork that is a monument to the trade unionist and photographer Eli Weinberg (1908-1981) and his family.
On our return whilst seated in the bus, we coasted along looking out at the Joburg landscape to the sounds of Hugh Masekela’s Stimela giving pause to the journeys of those that have gone before us.
Visiting these public artworks and mosaics, served to bring fragments of the past into a single cohesive form, with the artworks at the various sites and locations tapping contrasting experiences of a city that over the years has lost its gold veneer.
May this great artist who was pure gold RIP, and here’s hoping that many people get to witness his public artworks that are one large mosaic bringing together so many segments of our fragmented city.