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‘Silver Lining’ by r1: Paul Kruger gets a New Coat


‘Silver lining’ is an idiom for optimism. It’s about finding beauty in the unexpected, seeing the positive side of a situation and staying hopeful. Using this as the concept behind wrapping the statue of late South African president Paul Kruger (located in central Pretoria) in tinfoil, artist ‘r1’ saw room to literally reflect on the past. The intervention, personally sponsored by Stephen Welz from Strauss & co., formed part of the Cool Capital Art Biennale in Pretoria. “To cover the statue with a silver coat deals with the process of reflection, renewal, change and innovation,” explains r1. “The sun will reflect and brighten up the statue with a new and intriguing appearance. What makes this piece truly remarkable is that the statue will look like it is been recast in a new silver transition metal.” By reviving the statue, r1 aims to regenerate dialogue and overlooked discussions about these monuments in a subtle but provocative way.


In the work’s proposal, r1 wrote: “Church square is a historic centre of Pretoria and attracts locals and tourists from all over the world. Contemporary cities are heavily grounded in their history, and Tshwane is no exception. The practice of raising statues and monuments was a way of creating “identity” in African cities during colonial times, used to express both power and resistance. In South Africa, the democratic era created a space for new voices to be represented in the city’s landscape. This project interrogates the changing relationship between a city and its monuments in the case of Tshwane, as it evolves towards a modern-day African city, inclusive and representative of a diversity of communities.”


At the same time as the South African gold rush in the 1880s, there was a lesser-known influx of silver mines in and around Pretoria called the ‘Pretoria Silver Belt’. r1’s ‘silver lining’ makes reference to this, as well as interrogating current debates around the relevance of historical statues and monuments in South Africa. “The project addresses the way these familiar statues are perceived,” wrote r1. He aims to generate a renewed perspective with focus on representing Pretoria’s identity – with and without the past.




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