Judges interviews

Short interviews conducted with Justices of the Constitutional Court, asking them which artwork(s) in the CCAC are their favourite.

Last updated: 29 May 2020

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Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga

Chosen artworks: Velaphi Mzimba, Mthokozisi (2017) and Erik Laubscher, Keurfontein, Laingsburg (1995-1996)

Justice Madlanga CCAC Photograph by Francois Lion Cachet copyright CCAC CCT

Justice Madlanga with Velaphi Mzimba's Mthokozisi, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 1340 x 1600 mm. Photograph taken on 16 March 2020 in Justice Madlanga's chambers at the Constitutional Court. The chambers he occupies used to belong to Justice T.L. Skweyiya, whose grandchildren donated this artwork to the CCAC in June 2019, Youth Month, to honour their grandfather and his championing of children’s rights in the judgments he wrote and handed down in the Constitutional Court.

1. What aspects of the artwork make it one of your favourite artworks in the Constitutional Court Art Collection?

When I saw this artwork, I was next to the lifts on the first floor. It was on the floor leaning against the wall on the lounge-like area on the floor below. It just caught my attention and I immediately walked down to it. I decided there and then that I wanted it in my chambers. I am very happy that you obliged. What captivates me about the artwork is that the depiction is so real, so alive; the boy could just walk “out of there” and come talk to you.

2. How do you see the artwork as being connected to justice or human rights in South Africa, or more universally?

The artwork depicts a beautiful boy. We, as courts and other institutions involved in upholding fundamental rights entrenched in our Bill of Rights, owe a duty to girls and boys to enforce their rights assiduously and thus keep them beautiful.

3. What value, if any, do you think the Constitutional Court Art Collection brings to the court environment, the work of the court or your work?

The Constitutional Court’s artwork is definitely a major attraction to the court and enhances the general ambience and environment of the court precinct.

4. Is there anything else you would like to say about the Constitutional Court Art Collection?

I will comment on only one other piece that I particularly like. I do not know what it is called. It first caught my attention when I was acting here at the Constitutional Court in 2000. At the time the Constitutional Court was in the leased premises across the street. The artwork depicts a landscape. Roughly in the middle it has something that is valley-like starting from the bottom of the piece all the way up. It was positioned at the end of a longish corridor. As I walked down that corridor, the piece used to give me the sensation of continuing with my walk from the corridor onto the valley and beyond. That piece is in the present court building but it is not as beautifully located.

Erik Laubscher

The artwork referred to in answer four above: Erik Laubscher, Keurfontein, Laingsburg, 1995-1996, oil on canvas, 1485 x 1930 mm.

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Acting Justice Margaret Victor

Chosen artwork: Kami Brodie, Three working women: Anna, Lizzie and Maggie (1994)

Justice Vicotr CCAC Photograph by Dominic Toerien copyright CCAC CCT

Justice Victor with Kami Brodie's Three working women: Anna, Lizzie and Maggie, 1994, oil and acrylic on canvas, 750 x 1512 mm. Photograph taken on 17 March 2020 where the artwork was installed in the level A passageway in the administrative area of the Constitutional Court.

1. What aspects of the artwork make it one of your favourite artworks in the Constitutional Court Art Collection?

Narration on why I chose this painting:

It is in the eyes of those three women that I read the shameful history and pain of our South African past. They are a triad of sisters, domestic workers who quietly and with dignity carried the burden of apartheid and even today their full dignity not yet attained.

They are the mothers and grandmothers who sent their sons and daughters to battle apartheid often never seeing them again. They are the ones whilst earning a pittance and living in tiny domestic quarters and serving their “madams” could not hold their own children to their breast but had to send them to relatives and the desolate camps of Dimbaza, Sada, Qwa Qwa and the Winterveld where kwashiorkor was rampant with no proper protein and vitamins for the little ones.

It is these women who silently and with pain cared for the well-nourished children of their “madams”. It was these women who were entrusted with the heart of the homes, yet it is they who to this day suffer disadvantage. They continue to suffer group disadvantage and discrimination along intersectional lines. Their discrimination intersects on multi axes such as racism, sexism, lack of status as domestic workers, subjected to patriarchy, marginalisation, lack of good education because of having to leave school early to support families, poor salaries and statutory benefits.

Understanding the intersectional nature of group disadvantage of these three women illustrates vividly the structural and dynamic consequences still suffered 25 years into our democracy.

The gaze of these three women shows that they will prevail and will not be deterred, discouraged, nor dissuaded. Wathint Abafazi’Wathint’ Imbokodo – You Strike the Woman, You Strike the Rock.

2. How do you see the artwork as being connected to justice or human rights in South Africa, or more universally?

It is this artwork collection that reminds us so vividly of our apartheid history and its pain that we must never forget or become immune to. There is also a vibrancy to the collection which foreshadows hope and a better life but still tethers us to our history.

3. What value, if any, do you think the Constitutional Court Art Collection brings to the court environment, the work of the court or your work?

I think it can elevate mood, and a sense of physical well-being, as well as bolster interpersonal bonds.

Take the High Court environment – the public and lawyers who attend can be in a combative mode, or fearful of the unknown or many other emotions. I believe a meaningful art collection can help to distract in the minutes of calm before the storm. Depending on the nature of the artwork it can be grounding and reassuring.

4. Is there anything else you would like to say about the Constitutional Court Art Collection?

I feel a sense of history, stability, hope for the future and more importantly proud and privileged to sit in a building where Mother Africa showcases that she has produced sons and daughters who have so much beauty, excellence and talent.

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