ROYAL BLOCK

A collaborative public artwork to uplift the community of Royal Block street in uMasizakhe township, Graaff-Reinet, South Africa.

Royal Block is a magnificent art installation spanning over 1000 square meters of façade, another expression of creativity changing the world. .We collaborated with artist Kim Lieberman and others, local and national, to create an opportunity to instill some deeply needed dignity in a part of the world where this privilege is so profoundly lacking.

In 2016 the Giant Flag Trust received an administrative grant from the Eastern Cape provincial government, which allowed the Trust to build out a small local management team and office in Graaff-Reinet, the town where the Giant Flag site is. On the day of the team induction, Guy met Thobeka Booysen, the project’s newly assigned Community Liaison.

 

When, as part of the introduction, he visited the homes of the new team, he discovered the street where Thobeka lived—and where her grandmother was born—called Royal Block, in the uMasizakhe township. A narrow lane ascending a hillside, Royal Block was architecturally distinct to the other dwellings and structures in uMasizakhe, in that it was flanked by two rows of blockhouses. Thobeka explained to Guy that this was originally built by the British as barracks for the Royal British Army—thus Royal Block—back during Anglo-Boer War, between 1899 and 1902.

Now it was home to a Black community, and like many townships across the country, the street and homes were in a state of disrepair. Guy’s idea was to collaborate with artists, both local and from Jo’burg, to use the 1000 square meters of façade to uplift the space and, through both the repairs and the artwork, bring a sense of dignity to a place that so badly needs it.

The artwork was conceived and curated pro bono by Kim Lieberman, respected conceptual artist and Guy’s sister. The project was supported by the Nahana Foundation, the Giant Flag Trust, with in-kind donations from Chromaflo Paints and Mica Hardware.