DURBAN – Plans are afoot to honour late anti-apartheid Struggle hero Fatima Meer with a bronze statue, to be erected in Durban.
The KwaZulu-Natal government has invited artists to bid for the project and has set an April 11 deadline for submissions.
The life-sized Meer bronze statue is destined for a granite-faced plinth near the Durban City Hall, according to KZN Office of the Premier officials who also briefed artists earlier this month.
The winning sculptor must have at least 10 years’ experience and must “liaise with family members regularly as part of manufacture”, according to the tender notice.
Meer’s daughter, Shamim Meer, said the family welcomed plans for a statue.
“It’s an honour to have the province think of my mother,” she said from Johannesburg, “We have been consulted; it’s been good.”
Shamim said they had been approached by the Office of the Premier and had provided photographs. These included pictures of both her parents as initially there had been talk of a statue of her father, Ismail, the SA Indian Congress and Communist Party member, treason trialist and friend of Nelson Mandela.
Shamim said the family had been asked where they would like the statue to be placed and near the Durban city hall was one of three suggestions they had made.
She said the family was happy the government was including them in the process. “We are available to have discussions,” she said.
Shamim edited and completed “Fatima Meer: Memories of Love and Struggle”, the unfinished autobiography Fatima left at her death in 2010. The book was published last year and although Shamin knows her subject deeply, she said she had no preconceived idea of how the finished sculpture should look.
Fatima was an indomitable spirit, who spent time in prison with Winnie Mandela and survived an assassination attempt during a lifetime of activism that extended beyond the apartheid era. But, as Shamim has written, behind the public persona there was also a feisty wife, a grieving mother and in her personal life a rebel, “challenging the restrictions placed on women in the Indian Muslim community”.
“I am not sure what the artist will go for. Some of the photographs that we have provided are of her speaking at meeting… we all relate in different ways,” she said.
Meanwhile Shamim’s son, Zen Marie, an artist and fine art lecturer at Wits University, was also in support of efforts to honour Meer’s legacy, but questioned the form this might take.
He felt that a “representational” artwork that mimics the Western tradition of putting statues of powerful men on plinths did not sit well with what Meer stood for.
“What would my grandmother want? She was less concerned about accolades or grand gestures and rather motivated towards committed action,” he said.
“Money being spent on representational memory/historical legacy projects would be better spent on ‘performative’ actions that actually did something – for example on expanding and developing community infrastructure in Durban,” said Marie.