In 2009, William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx were commissioned to make a public sculpture for the City of Johannesburg to be installed in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The sculpture is based on a drawing by Kentridge of a woman street vendor—known colloquially as a fire walker—carrying a burning brazier on her head. The eleven-metre-high figure would take her place at the foot of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge on a site formerly used by informal traders and taxi washers, and close to the busy Metro Mall and Taxi Rank.
Far more than being about a single artwork, this book participates in the myriad conversations and debates on the meaning of public art. Essays by Mark Gevisser, Mpho Matsipa, Alexandra Dodd, and Jonathan Cane and Zen Marie prise open critical questions about public space in Johannesburg; Oliver Barstow’s interviews with the various collaborators on the sculpture—from the commissioning agent to the steelworker—reveal the complexities and challenges of creating such a massive work in so short a time (construction and installation took a mere six weeks); and the extraordinary images by John Hodgkiss of the making of the sculpture, alongside two evocative photo essays on fire walker vendors (by Ben Law-Viljoen) and old city monuments (by Alastair McLachlan), suggest the metaphorical power of Fire Walker as well as the fragile hold of street vendors over their small share of city space.
Fire Walker is available in a limited deluxe edition (with prints by Kentridge and Marx) and a standard edition.
The launch of Fire Walker takes place on the 9th of June on the roof of Main Street Life in the Maboneng Precinct. Kentridge and Marx, as well as several contributors to the book, will be present to sign copies.
For more information contact Suzie Copperthwaite: firstname.lastname@example.org