Mark Gevisser is one of the contributors to Bronwyn Law-Viljoen and Oliver Barstow’s Fire Walker, a book of conversations and meditations on the meaning of public art. Read his essay, entitled “Ma Firewalker and Mr Typerwriter-Head: Maps, Marx and Kentridge”, courtesy Markgevisser.com:
Ma Firewalker and Mr Typerwriter-Head: Maps, Marx and Kentridge
Recently, in his Houghton studio, William Kentridge showed me a map of early Johannesburg he acquired about a decade ago. It folds out from a rather unassuming leatherbound folio with ‘Plan of Johannesburg’ written in gold on its front cover, into a meticulous and magnificent field of the imagination and confidence that drove the early settlement. The map is signed by one W.
Tompkins, and dated 1890: it sets streets and plots and railway lines and parks, the armature of human settlement, into a landscape dominated by elegant conical structures, etched with delicate lines arranged in circles, representing the koppies of the Witwatersrand beneath which the new town was settled. The date is significant: the map was made only four years after urban settlement began, and yet such was the energy of the gold rush that the legend notes six churches, one synagogue, four banks, four theatres, four clubs, three hotels, six government buildings (including post office, police station, hospital and ‘Government Entrepot’) and around forty ‘Other Notable Buildings.’
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- Fire Walker edited by Bronwyn Law-Viljoen and Oliver Barstow
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