Judges interviews

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

Last updated: 1 April 2022

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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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Justice Sisi Khampepe

CCAC Int Khampepe Sisi Nxumalo Sfiso CR CCT FLC 20210919 2

1. Please tell us about your first impressions of the art and building of the Constitutional Court, when you first arrived as a justice of this court in 2009.


Well, to start with, I was impressed by the kind of the architecture of the building, which was different from other conventional court buildings that I knew. I was also impressed by the various artworks that adorned the building and the court’s footprint. And the fact that each chamber had a dedicated artwork and wherever you looked, there was art. There was art in the corridor, the walls, the ceilings, the floors... speaking to you. It was a museum of... an explosion of sort.

2. What led you to becoming a member of the Artworks Committee in 2012?

[Laughs] That one is quite an interesting one. Because I had been asked by my colleagues, Johann van der Westhuizen and Edwin Cameron, to become a member of the Artworks Committee, and I had refused. But then, Johann van der Westhuizen had his birthday party at his house, and he asked me to give him the greatest gift for his birthday. And that is by accepting to become a member of the Artworks Committee. And that's how I became persuaded to become a member of the Artworks Committee.

3. You became the chairperson of the Committee between 2015 to 2021. What impression did the chairmanship leave on you?

Yeah. Well, the experience of having served as the chairperson of the Artworks Committee has left me with a very positive impression. To know that with hard work, passion, determination, dedication, and fortitude, there're great rewards. I have been granted an opportunity to work with the greatest curatorial team and the best colleagues in the Artworks Committee. I couldn't have asked for more. Yes, the impression has been a very positive one.

4. Is there any specific artwork within the collection that's particularly meaningful to you?

Well, the specific artwork that is particularly meaningful to me is the one called Making Democracy Work by Sandile Goje. The linocut depicts a contemporary society embodying democracy, transparency, and community by having court proceedings under a tree. The Constitutional Court adopted the “justice under a tree” metaphor, as one of its core fundamentals, as the ceremony under the tree represents transparency and protection, and draws on the tradition of trees being community meeting places. Goje's linocut is emblematic of the Constitutional Court, suggesting a unique and open South African solution to law in a post-apartheid environment. This particular artwork tells a story about South Africa's past: the traditional community practices of gathering under a tree for conflict resolution and the administration of justice. These practices were historically marginalised in favour of the western legal system inherited from colonialism. Yet this artwork speaks to the promise of a future, an inclusive and representative system of governance, and the judiciary that embodies respect and benefits from the cultural practices and wisdom of all South Africans. It speaks to a vision of equality, both before the law and in the law itself. It represents the idea that the Constitution and the court belong to all the people of South Africa. Having grown up in KZN myself, where I experienced disputes being resolved under a tree, this particular artwork resonates with me and appeals to me. I'm a KZN girl through and through.

5. What value do you think the Constitutional Court Art Collection brings to the court's environment, the court's work or to your work as a justice of the court?

Yeah, well the Constitutional Court is in itself unique in many ways, one of which is that it is a reflection of the intersection of law, culture and democracy. The success of our democracy cannot be seen in our laws alone, it must be judged by reflecting on the culture of our country. Visual art is a representation of that culture. It is fitting then that the Constitutional Art Collection comprises a diverse and inclusive range of works, with a focus on past injustices, and the struggle that so many people of our country have endured. In this regard, there is a symbolic link between the court, our law and the art collection. In addition to the insight that the art provides on the culture of society, it is also used as a form of activism and protest. The Constitutional Court is a product of the upheaval of the apartheid regime and South Africa's new democratic chapter. It is vital to our future, but at the same time, a memorial of the pains and injustices of the past, the very reasons that the court came to exist. That's the value that I put to the Constitutional Court Art Collection.

6. What developments would you like to see with regards to the Constitutional Court Art Collection in the future?

I am very satisfied with the way it is developing.

7. How do you see art as being connected to justice or human rights in South Africa or more universally, outside of the court environment?.

Yes, I've already touched on that one. And just to say, I think here I would have to bring in the preamble to our Constitution, which commences with 'We the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of the past, and honour those who have suffered. Since it was these words that contextualise our supreme law, there is beauty and symbolism in the fact that the court itself, the ultimate guardian and custodian of this law, is home to a collection of artwork that embodies and represents the struggle against oppression, the lived realities of our people, and the very activism that gave birth to constitutionalism. The art collection reveals what it took to build the Constitutional Court. It is only right that it is honoured by its placement in the court. Aside from the struggle that it reveals, the art collection of the court is a celebration of diversity and the collaboration of people from all walks of life. This is in any case a testament to a founding goal of our Constitution, which is unity in diversity. The art collection at the court broadens the court's accessibility by providing a form of visual jurisprudence to all visitors. In this way, it provides an alternative language, so to speak, which the court and the Constitution can be probed and be understood. In this regard, I can do no better than quote the famous words of Dr Eliza Garnsey when she said, and I quote her now: "The artworks at the court are closely connected to and blended with both the value and practice of justice. In this way, they can be understood as a new kind of visual jurisprudence. In such close proximity, the art collection inhabits a unique position where the assumptions of justice and what it means to uphold the Constitution in post-apartheid South Africa can be probed." End quote.

8. How has your work on the Artworks Committee and time spent at the Constitutional Court impacted your relationship to art and architecture outside of the court?

Yes, I now see art with an engaging eye. It has very positively impacted upon me. I see art with an engaging eye that I never had before I became involved with the Artwork's Committee.

9. Is there anything else you would like to say with regards to the art collection?

Well, safe to say that the importance of the Court's collection should not be downplayed. Raising awareness is to provide insight and understanding to all who visit the court, so that its litigants, members of the public and the tourists will know of how the court came to be here. And indeed, what it exists to achieve, and present, and prevent. It is an ode to all South Africans, that this is their court. Without them and their stories, it would not exist.

10. How does the Constitutional Court building and the architecture of the building stand out for you personally? Do you feel that it has left a lasting impression on you?

It has left a very lasting impression. I have worked through many courts as a lawyer and sitting as a judge. I have never seen such architecture. And when I saw this kind of architecture, at first, I didn't know whether I should be excited or should be angry that I'm not seeing the conventional court building. But having stayed in the court I have warmed up to the idea. It is an architecture of note. It is one of a kind. And I've only seen something that represents the Constitutional Court by the German court, the German Constitutional Court, that comes closer to the kind of architecture that we have in our country. It is a great architecture.

CCAC Goje Sandile Making Democracy Work

Chosen artwork: Sandile Goje, Making Democracy Work, 1996, linocut, 525 x 365 mm. Photograph by Ben Law-Viljoen © CCT.

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Further interviews will be added as they're finalised.

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