Slim Jannie – 2016
Oil on canvas 120.5 x 191.5 cm
Based on a semi-abstract sculpture of Jan Smuts by Sydney Harpley (1964) situated in the Company’s Gardens outside the National Gallery of South Africa in Cape Town. Jan Smuts an Afrikaner leader dominated much of public life in South Africa and had a strong reputation in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century. He fell from grace after the Afrikaner Nationalist Party swept him from power in 1948.
The apotheosis of individual leaders is inevitably fraught with complexity. He was a larger than life figure of note and the positioning of his sculptured portrait on a prominent site against the backdrop on Table Mountain attests to this.
His head offers a commanding view of the [his] surrounds and is a much favored post for the bird life in Cape Town. The Company’s Gardens are the domain of many birds who constantly defecate on his head, graphically adding to his venerable visage as they peruse their fiefdom from a lofty viewpoint.
Zapiro the South African cartoon satirist constantly depicts the South African President Jacob Zuma with a plumbing device on his head but for very different reasons of course!