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Page 8 THE INDEPENDENT on Saturday 19 January 2013

How green is my roof garden... Durbanites are enthusiastically changing the skyline SIHLE MTHEMBU HERE’S a secret world way above the streets of Durban and it’s growing. The eThekwini city architects’ department has granted a three-year contract extension to the Priority Zone initiative and as a result business people all over the city are being encouraged to make their own rooftop gardens. This is part of Durban’s initiative to encourage more “green lungs” in the city. There have been increased public requests that the pilot “greening” and general cleanup and maintenance project be extended to other parts of Durban’s CBD. According to Mpho Mtshali, who is the facilities co-ordinator of the Priority Zone, the municipality is currently finalising a review of the zone’s boundaries which run from Margaret Mncadi (Victoria Embankment) Street to K E Masinga (Old Fort) Road, to see how the programme can be expanded to fit other parts of the city and a new arts precinct. “We are consulting with stakeholders that live and work in our areas and as part of the wider plans for the zone is the integration of an arts precinct where all creative disciplines can come together, interact and create. And this will add a lot of appeal for the CBD and people can come visit here more often and use our green spaces,” said Mtshali. The development will help ensure that there is more direct monitoring of city services and participation from local businesses in increasing green spaces in the city. “Before this project was implemented in the area, monitoring of services was a problem and that is the value we have


added in the Priority Zone. As we expand over the next three years we really want to ensure that small business and people in other parts of Durban are able to engage with us in helping create a clean and environmentally friendly city,” said Mtshali. The Priority Zone project, which was founded in late 2010 as part of Durban’s preparations for COP17, has been responsible for environmental awareness initiatives around water management and indigenous planting, something that Mtshali says will continue to be emphasised over the next three years. “What we are doing now is educating property owners in the city through our own experience to be able to create their own roof gardens in a sustainable and cost-effective way. “We don’t want this to be something that is restricted to us, but we also want to provide the knowledge and resource base for people to do their own rooftop gardens all over Durban.” According to Andrew Layman, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, greening initiatives like this are helping teach business people that being environmentally friendly is a good investment, but they also need to be supported by proper incentives. “Business people are much more aware of environmental sustainability issues and are moving in the direction of becoming greener – recycling, more efficient use of energy, lighting and minimisation of waste,” said Layman. “I think there should be more incentives which could be offered to some extent by the municipality. What we as the Chamber need to do is to convince businesses that these are not costs but investments.”

ABOVE: The head of garden maintenance for the Priority Zone, Ace Skhakhane, stands proudly in a roof garden in Monty Naicker (Pine) Street where vegetables, herbs and other plants are starting to take over the formerly sterile concrete. ABOVE RIGHT: A different roof in Monty Naicker (Pine) Street after it was turned into a garden and, below, what it looked like before. LEFT AND RIGHT: The rooftop gardens boast a mixture of fresh vegetables and fruit which are often donated to charities. The gardens are maintained by trained staff and currently employ almost 300 people. PICTURES: SUPPLIED

Street artist Lion’s elephants roam city SIHLE MTHEMBU WHO SAYS elephants are an endangered species? They are now sprouting up on street corners and buildings all over Durban and are the work of a young, irreverent artist called Mook Lion. Lion is one of a new and subversive breed of street artists who have taken it upon themselves to carry their cause on to Durban’s streets, and his latest works of faces and elephants, though fun, carry a serious message and form part of an ongoing body of work called Still Free. The series has been largely influenced by Lion’s arrest, along with six other artists, for painting a mural in memory of a deceased friend in Umbilo’s industrial area. Although the malicious damage to property charges were eventually withdrawn, Lion notes that the experience shifted his perspective on the role of art as something that can be both created and enjoyed in public spaces. “The Still Free concept comes from the period of time when I and my friend Dok had malicious damage to property charges withdrawn. We continued to paint, but were always grateful to still have the freedom to do so. We were still free,” he says. “It’s also about the fact that there are many things in society which restrain peoples’ freedom, like poverty, lack of education etc. So it’s an attempt to encourage others to realise their own creative freedom. Especially within the public space, which people need to engage with more.” The resulting work features small black and white posters pasted in unusual places around the city, as well as much larger installations. The latter includes the three large elephants that are a parody of Andries Botha’s sculptures, which have been allowed to deteriorate in Durban’s Warwick Junction. Speaking about why he choose to use this as subject matter, Lion said that he found it interesting that such a piece of work could cause so much political uproar. “My work is most definitely a direct response to Andries Botha’s sculptural elephants in Warwick. I feel it is an example of politics interfering in my area of interest, public art in Durban. It is also an example of the ANC’s abuse of power, disregard for the law and the wasting of tax-

ABOVE: Young Durban-based street artist Mook Lion with some of his laser-cut elephant posters at the corner of Julius Nyerere (Warwick) Avenue and Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street. RIGHT: Lion’s works vary both in scale and location. BELOW: The Still Free series was inspired by Andries Botha’s three elephants sculptures which have been the centre of massive political controversy in Durban.

payer’s money,” he says. “The posters are inspired by the fact that elephants are beautiful animals, which were in Durban way before the IFP or the ANC. My idea was to place the image of three elephants all over Durban as if they were roaming freely. By doing this I aimed to defy the city’s attempts to remove the elephants from Durban and also to raise awareness about the issue and attempt to create a dialogue around the issue.”