At the entrance to Pieter Roos Park, in Parktown, stands The messenger, a sculpture that speaks to the bustling transport routes that surround this green oasis. Situated on Empire Road, at Hillbrow’s notorious feet and sandwiched between Wits University’s Education Campus and the quiet peri-urban apartment blocks of Parktown, Pieter Roos Park is a breath of tranquility in a somewhat tumultuous environment.
Transport routes circumnavigate the park, highlighting it’s importance, not only as a green lung, but also a space of psychological relief from city life. Minibus Taxi’s, BRT busses and Gautrain shuttles transport hundreds of people through this space daily, from the chaotic Park-station hub, past the Constitutional Court, branching into the urban congestion of Hillbrow or out into the wide jacaranda avenues of Parktown.
The inhabitants of the high-rises that characterise this edge of Johannesburg’s inner city, find respite from its imposing concrete in the Shade of Pieter Roos Park’s trees and recreation in its basketball court, and grassy embankments. The fresh breeze that comes up from the small Braamfontein spruit running through the park, gives students, commuters, residents and workers an opportunity to cool off in the heat of summer.
Recognising the park’s pivotal role in the health of the inner city, the Johannesburg Development agency, in collaboration with the Trinity Project, commissioned The Messenger, a sculpture that talks to the complexity of this very unique green space in Johannesburg’s core.
The underlying structural design of The Messenger, is drawn from earlier experiments in which identical profiles are rotated around a central axis, creating a coherent volumetric form from disparate two-dimensional elements. In this instance, the 12 profiles describe the form of a man, a giant, his arms outstretched aloft and in each of his hands he holds a unique individual, each one, telling their own story.
Businessmen with briefcases, commuters hailing Taxi’s, women carrying parcels on their heads, each of the characters that are carried in the hands of this pivotal being, reflect the everyday people of the inner city. There is a superstitious quality to The Messenger, his presence implying a guardianship, the activity of a being that is watching over the safety of the commuters and the larger community.