Africa Geographic Travel

Art rises on eagle’s wings

A collective of Durban creatives is putting a whole new spin on “the eagle has landed!” The Bulwer Park Community Public Sculpture Project is building a large sculpture for Bulwer Park in Glenwood, for a planned installation in mid-December 2015. It’s a vulturine fish eagle, aka palm-nut vulture, wings spread, soaring over seven meters high among the tree tops in this beautiful park which, following a major makeover by eThekwini city, is a  popular outdoor recreation space for locals.


Adjacent to one of KwaZulu Natal’s most outstanding arts venues, the KwaZulu Natal South African Gallery complex, this sculpture project celebrates partnerships that provide artistically credible, interesting and informative public art.

bulwer-park-community-public-sculpture-project palm-nut-vulture-sculpture

The eagle is being constructed of very unique materials – kindly provided by Oricol Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd, a Durban-based company that has been awarded a contract by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) based on their ability to offer safe destruction of non-compliant goods through environmentally-friendly waste management methods, ensuring maximum recycling and diversion from landfill of the products.

It is important to ensure that non-compliant goods are properly and safely destructed to ensure that they can never re-enter the market. These goods are consumer items that enter the South African market as defective and undesirable for responsible consumers – everything from electric plugs that don’t fit sockets to water safety vests that don’t float. A bunch of talented Durban artists have snapped up the unique opportunity to repurpose these objects to make beautiful and meaningful art.

Recycling and upcycling is a sustainable alternative to using traditional sculpture materials. Leading the charge is Umcebo Design, one of the National Arts Council’s beneficiaries. Robin Opperman, Ujala Sewpersad and a group of local crafters, working from their studio over the road from Bulwer Park, will construct the eagle sculpture.

Working with sculptor George Halloway, the eagle will be constructed of galvanised steel round bar and non-compliant goods that have been withdrawn from the market. By choosing to depict the vulturine fish eagle, the project engages with the issues and challenges surrounding the conservation of the South African natural environment, specifically our endangered species.

sculpture-recycled-material bulwer-park

The vulturine fish eagle is found in the forests and savannah areas of Sub Saharan Africa, usually near water, and specifically in areas where the date palm can be found. While it is a bird of prey, its diet consists mainly on the fruit of the oil palm, but it also eats crabs, molluscs, locusts and fish. Many of these birds can be found in commercial palm plantations. It is found mostly on the coast between Mtunzini and Mozambique in KwaZulu-Natal. It is considered a rare bird in South Africa but it is not under any immediate threat.


The decision for the sculpture to depict the eagle is motivated by the need to bring to public attention species other than the “Big Five”, firstly because the Big Five are largely absent from Southern KwaZulu Natal and secondly because the KwaZulu Natal district of Uthungulu is nationally and internationally synonymous with eco-tourism and in particular, birding. Not only is the bird of significance to the ecology of KZN, but the Illala palm, its natural habitat, has many important uses within indigenous isiZulu culture and technology, the most widespread being basket weaving.


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