Monday, August 3, 2015

The VULTURINE FISH EAGLE part of the Bulwer Park Community Public Sculpture Project.

Bren Brophy, Project Director, Community Murals Project Trust, is leading a group of talented Durban sculptors in the creation of a large sculpture of a Vulturine Fish Eagle (also known as the Palm Nut Vulture) for Bulwer Park in Glenwood. With wings spread and soaring over 7 meters high among the tree tops of the park, the sculpture highlights the major makeover by eThekwini city of a popular outdoor recreation space for locals. The eagle is appropriately positioned, adjacent to the vibrant KZNSA Gallery, one of KZN’s most exciting arts venues. In this way the sculpture project celebrates partnerships that promote artistically interesting and informative public art.
The Eagle is being constructed using unique materials donated by Oricol Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd, a Durban based company awarded a contract by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) for their proven expertise in environmentally friendly and safe destruction of non-compliant goods. These include items such as electric plugs, cables, scissors and plastic combs. Oricol ensures that items such as these are properly and safely destructed to ensure that they never re-enter the market .in an untreated state. The recycled and up-cycled materials used in the Eagle’s construction also provide an innovative and environmentally safe and sustainable alternative medium to a number of traditional materials used to create sculptures.
Leading the movement towards making art out of safely treated discarded consumer goods are Umcebo Designers Robin Opperman and Ujala Sewpersad, together with a group of local crafters who work from their studio across the road from Bulwer Park. Working with sculptor George Halloway these crafters will construct the eagle using galvanized steel round bars and the treated non-compliant .goods. The use of new re-purposed materials for making art is unique and innovative and by choosing to depict the Vulturine Fish Eagle the project engages with the issues and challenges surrounding the conservation of the South African natural environment, specifically our endangered species. 
The Vulturine Fish Eagle was chosen as a sculpture for Bulwer park because it is a bird to be found in the forests and savannah areas of sub-Saharan Africa, including KZN
While it is a bird of prey, its diet consists mainly of the fruit of the oil palm; but it also eats crabs, molluscs, locusts and fish. Many of these birds can be found in commercial palm plantations mostly on the coast between Mtunzini and Mozambique, and in Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is considered a rare bird in South Africa but it is not under any immediate threat. 
Not only is the bird of significance to the ecology of KZN, but the Ilala palm, its natural habitat, has many important uses within indigenous isiZulu culture and technology, the most widespread being the use of ilala palm leaves in basket weaving.
Grade 5 learners from two preparatory schools in eThekwini will be asked to name the eagle as part of an educational programme that will stimulate dialogue and debate surrounding often illegally imported contraband consumer goods, recycling of goods, and the preservation of our indigenous wildlife and environmental heritage. To create maximum interest in the project among learners in KZN, children’s drawings of the eagle will be exhibited at the KZNSA Gallery. 
The decision to depict the Vulturine Fish Eagle in sculpture was motivated by the need to bring to public attention species other than the ‘big five’, because they are largely absent in southern KwaZulu-Natal and also because the KZN district of uThungulu is nationally and internationally synonymous with eco-tourism and in particular, birding-Avi tourism. 

Lead designers: Robin Opperman, Ujala Sewpersad.
Lead sculptor: George Halloway assisted by Earnest Ngcobo.
Crafters: Samuel and Barbara Gwezwa, Shannon Moffett, Beverly Burne, Kelly Lemans.
Networking, research: Shannon Moffett, Sheryl Msomi.
Structural Engineer: Rob Young.
Photography: Harry Lock.
Project Director: Bren Brophy.
With support from the Community Murals Projects Trust.
Special thanks to Lindsay Wayman, Sustainable Development and Communication Officer, Oricol Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd.

Information supplied by Bren Brophy
Independent Arts and Culture Activator.


Robin Opperman is one of two Driving forces behind the THE  BULWER  PARK  COMMUNITY  PUBLIC  SCULPTURE  PROJECT
 The concept of Umcebo Design was born out of a long history of working with marginalised people of varying abilities around the idea that art and craft can be elevated to a new level of creativity and, at the same time, generate valuable income for participants.
Robin Opperman started the concept experimentally in the 90s while working as an Art Teacher at Ningizimu School for the Severely Mentally Handicapped. The idea of roping in community support for art and craft projects in all shapes and forms with a view to generating income and gaining exposure for the art programme became the seed idea for what was to become "Umcebo Trust".

Robin moved on from the school to run the newly formed Umcebo Trust full-time in the early 2000s. This was an experimental model to see if art and craft could be self-sustaining and support a small core of full-time crafters and a wider community of "outreach" crafters. While the "Trust" achieved much success and especially a lot of attention and publicity; it became evident that the current global economic down-turn would ultimately lead to Umcebo Trust closing down due to lack of funding and overhead pressures.

This was not the end though; not being willing to walk away from the idea, Robin transformed Umcebo Trust into Umcebo Design. The art and craft concept remained the same, but the modus operandi become more "business-like" and "lean".

Robin now operates with a small core group of artists / crafters / consultants who bring their unique skills to the party. Most of the craftwork and commission work is done by Robin and his core group; but where possible and viable, work is out-sourced to local community crafters who are able to make good money for themselves on a commission basis.
Umcebo Design continues to produce unique art and craft pieces and works closely with other craft-centred organisations in the Durban area.

Robin has been involved in the arts and crafts in one form or another his whole adult life. Inspite of this, his formal qualification is that of a Mathematics teacher!
After Graduating from the University of Natal with a Social Science Degree and a Post Grad Diploma in Applied Social Sciences; Robin left the country for a period of four and a half years. This was the late 80's and a time of political turmoil in South Africa. He was granted Refugee status in Zimbabwe and during his time there he started the annual "Refugee Day Art Exhibition". Additionally, he produced his own art and sculpture - some of which was accepted into the annual Baringa exhibition at the Harare National Gallery.
With political change in the air in 1990, Robin returned to Durban where he worked as a Maths teacher and furthered his studies to achieve his HDE.
Robin moved on from the school to run the newly formed Umcebo Trust full-time in the early

Robin Opperman
Creative Director
Umcebo Design