(South African, Born 1956)
Mixed media sculpture
215 x 230 x 100cm
On October 14, 1985, heightened tensions between anti-apartheid demonstrators and police came to a head in the Cape Town suburb of Athlone. Eleven days after the Government declared a state of emergency in other parts of the country, police hidden in the back of a South African Railways truck rode directly into a hundred-strong crowd at an intersection on Thornton Road. Michael Miranda, 11, Shaun Magmoed, 16, and Jonathan Claasen, 21, were killed on the spot. Thirteen others were injured. Because it was an ambush, the incident became known as the “Trojan Horse Massacre.” 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
Amongst the countless acts of violence that befell the South African people during this time, the Trojan Horse Massacre marked a turning point in the struggle against apartheid, as it was captured by international cameras and beamed to international communities.
The present sculpture is made from parts of cars and motorcycles that Bester has transformed from scrap metal into a dynamic and naturalistic animal. Bester uses a particular vocabulary of forms to focus attention on the transformation of flesh and blood into dehumanised cogs. He originally asked permission from the South African police to use decommissioned Kalashnikov rifles so as to signify the smuggling of arms on the African Continent, but he was firmly told that they were all to be melted down.
Born in Montagu, South Africa in 1956, Bester has received international acclaim for his thought-provoking work. Since the early 1990s, he has exhibited extensively throughout Africa, Europe, and the Americas, including the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Museum of Modern Art (Oxford); the South African National Gallery (Cape Town); the Venice Biennale (1993), the 5th Havana Biennale (Cuba), and the 1998 Dakar Biennale in Senegal. In 2004, Bester’s work was included in the landmark exhibition Africa Remix, organized by Museumkunstpalast Düsseldorf (Germany), which subsequently travelled to the Hayward Gallery (London), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), and the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo).
Bester’s work charts the dramatic social and political developments in South Africa over the past 25 years. His account of social change is not idealistic. Instead, he continues to address issues of corruption and Government accountability in the new South Africa.
About his work, Bester comments “we were naïve about the state of things in South Africa; we thought
things would be different. We wanted to believe that our culture had changed, because we so badly wanted things to
be different so that we could move forward. But it’s impossible to forget the past because it in influences our future. This is why I document these events, so that we do not forget.”