The iThemba Tower, a 20 meter-high permanent art installation made with over 7 000 recycled plastic bottles on a redundant communication tower, gives visibility to a less advantaged community in Johannesburg. To create the tower, local schools and waste collectors in Troyville sourced bottles and filled each with a message of hope.
iThemba Tower teamed up with Between 10 and 5, who publicised the initiative and invited people to contribute and write their “message in a bottle”. These messages were printed on small pieces of paper and rolled/tied into a ribbon, before being placed in the bottles.
Bushveld Labs, a design and engineering consultancy company, assisted with the LED light installation, which lights up the tower at night, reinforcing it as a beacon of light beaming from the Spaza community art garden in Troyeville – a centre aimed at nurturing creative talent.
iThemba means trust and hope. The tower stands as a public art moment and is symbolic of the diverse community’s collective hopes. The collaborative nature of the project addresses the problematic issue of plastic pollution affecting the everyday life of residents in Troyeville. It also aims to break existing boundaries across cultures, inspiring not only Troyville’s residents but also the nation by involving school kids, artists, residents and business in grassroots issues.
The execution of the iThemba Tower was made possible by multiple partners with a range of skills and knowledge, who would have probably never worked together if it weren’t for this initiative. The tower raises awareness around recycling through outreach programmes with local schools and community-based organisations. Informal waste collectors were also empowered through their engagement with the project which gave them a voice to discuss their lives, as well as share their knowledge with the broader community.