How public art is reshaping Tshwane

New pieces of artwork dispersed across Tshwane are beginning to catch the public’s attention. Along with the city’s walls, public spaces like the Botanical Gardens, parks, walkways, shopping malls, and university grounds are being transformed by Tshwane designers, artists and architects, who are displaying their passion for the city. These works included murals on building walls, concrete constructed urban furniture placed in parks and universities, and landscape architecture artworks created using the surrounding stones, trees and pathways as a starting point for inspiration, to name a few.

In a bid to embrace the city through the arts, a number of art initiatives are under way and seeking to change the existing perceptions of the age-old capital city. Traditionally, the artwork and sculptures around the city are representative of an older South Africa, with sculptures by artist Anton Van Wouw of leaders and citizens from the 1800s.

The new artwork that is popping up around the city is crying out a different tune. A tune of a multicultural city with new creative mediums such as the sculpture by renowned sculptor Anton Smit, called The Spirit of Tshwane. The piece draws on the theme of a community being reliant on one another, which is depicted through the fragments of a face placed together. The sculpture is engraved with elaborate designs on the surface of the face showing the richness of the character. The cracked spaces inbetween signify growth of the community.

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Anton Smit’s sculpture ‘The Spirit of Tshwane,’ in Pretoria’s Menlyn Maine development. Lwazi Bengu.

Enter the Capital Collective

The Capital Collective is an organisation seeking to enhance collaboration between the private and public sector and create a network of initiatives and organisations that are contributing to the city’s rejuvenation. It has introduced projects that are nurturing a new culture in Tshwane that combinines the arts and a love for the city by encouraging the use of existing urban spaces.

One of the Collective’s flagship initiatives, Market at the Sheds, is an art, design, food and music market that involves a number of different Pretoria based groups such as Pretoria Street Photography, Capital Arts Revolution, Cool Capital, the department of Arts and Culture, and the City of Tshwane amongst others. The market is held in a repurposed building in the city centre, bringing new life to this area.

As Mareli Wassenaar, Capital Collective’s Program Director, explained, the Capital Collective has also initiated walking and cycling events around the city, urban farming programs, an inner city newspaper, urban art projects, and cleaning and safety programmes. It was also involved in a recent workshop on “Public art – reshaping the capital city” which took place in June and allowed city officials to have an open conversation with public art roleplayers and stakeholders from different sectors.

Cool Capital Biennale

The Cool Capital Biennale, held for the first time last year, is another initiative that falls under the Capital Collective umbrella. It saw sculptures and artwork constructed out of a variety of mediums illustrating the depth of creativity in reinventing the city. Public spaces have been given new life with architectural designs including small pavilions, entrance gates, benches, street furniture, signage, graffiti, public sculptures and installation art reflecting the true diversity of Tshwane.

The aim of the initiative is to allow the public to express their love for the city and ways to improve it through art, architecture, urban and graphic design, public installations, film screenings and musical performances. Initiatives such as this line up well with the city’s Tshwane Vision 2055 which states that the City of Tshwane aims for “Quality architecture and urban design: beauty, aesthetics, human comfort and creating a sense of place.”

Although public awareness about the initiative is still low, the Biennale is expected to have a far greater reach by partnering with more organisations in preparation for their next launch in 2016, said Lide Mahale, Cool Capital launch organiser.

According to Wasseenar, Capital Collective will also be publishing a book on the top 40 projects in the capital.

With these projects underway, a new air of excitement towards celebrating the city of Tshwane should be, and is being, embraced by many.


To keep up to date with upcoming events, Capital Collective can be followed on Facebook and twitter ( (@CapitalCollectv), as well as via their website:


Lwazi Bengu is an editorial intern at UrbanAfrica.Net. She is based in Pretoria, South Africa, and is a Publishing graduate at the University of Pretoria. She is a media enthusiast and desires to use content creation to make an impact in development. 

Main photo: Artwork installation by the Cool Capital Biennale. Lwazi Bengu.


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