South Africa: Artist threatened for public space art project

18 November 2014

The South African artist Michael Elion has been threatened by users on social media for his giant public space art project ‘Madiba glasses’.

The heated debate surrounding his sunglasses installation Perceiving Freedom, his tribute to Nelson Mandela, eliciting violent responses from some of the users online.

It all came to a head when he discovered his work had been vandalised. He said the word “murder” was scrawled on part of the frame. Smudged black letters across both lenses spelled out “we broke / your hearts”.

“This is clearly a personal attack,” he said, standing outside the Cape Town police station where he had lodged a case against his alleged aggressors.

The installation has received a mixed reaction. This is partly because while it exists as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the lenses, made possible through a corporate sponsorship from Ray-Ban, are pointed towards Robben Island and are apparently the same style he wore while imprisoned there in 1977.

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