iThemba Tower: 7000 plastic bottles light up to spread a message of hope

The iThemba Tower project is a 20 meter-high permanent art installation made with over 6,000 recycled plastic bottles on a redundant communication tower. The project is initiated by r1 and involves local schools and waste collectors in collecting the bottles and filling them with a “message in a bottle”. Each message will have a small light inside of each bottle and will be lit up at night.

This project will strengthen the community of downtown Johannesburg, support the livelihood of informal waste collectors and raise general awareness about recycling. This 20 meter-high monument will flicker at night to become a symbol of inspiration and a beacon of light.


The project will come together with the help and assistance of a team of waste collectors and local community. They have already collected 5000 plastic bottles and are currently assembling the bottles together into bottle-sheets, that will be wrapped around the tower. 

The installation is situated in the Spaza community art garden in Troyeville, Johannesburg. The art garden is run by Andrew Lindsey and it’s been in the community for more than a decade. It is a safe haven for any type of creative talent in the community to be nurtured and displayed.


iThemba means “trust” and “hope”. The iThemba Tower aims to be a public art monument, a symbolic communication tower, around which a diversity of people can share their collective hopes. In addition to this the project is raising recycling awareness through workshops at local schools and has already started collecting messages from the kids, which will become the “message in a bottle”. The messages have been put together into a smaller temporary installation on the school grounds. This installation will be taken to the tower as part of the final installation. More messages are currently being collected from the local community.

r1 would like to encourage the broader public to participate in the project and share their hopes and messages. Members of the public are invited to write messages in the form at the bottom of this post that reflects any hope or aspiration that resonates a positive impact for the city or country.

Add your message of hope to the iThemba Tower art installation

[gravityform id=”98″ title=”false” description=”false”]

8 97

These messages will be printed on small piece of paper and rolled/tied into a ribbon, before being placed in the bottles. With the help of Bushveld Labs, the installation will be lit up at night and the tower of messages will become a landmark and a beacon of light.

The entire process is documented as a short film by Frans Borman, showing not only the ‘making-of’ but also the lives and aspirations of Johannesburg’s youth, the informal waste collectors and the impact of their participation in this project. The film includes interviews with the people and schools that are involved, capturing a story of transformation through creative engagement. After the completion of the tower the film will be launched on Between 10and5. Watch this space!

The short portrait videos of the team of waste collectors that are involved with the project are also trailers for the final project video.

6 5 10

Follow the progress of the iThemba Tower on the project website, Facebook, and Vimeo

The public launch of iThemba Tower will take place at Spaza Garden on Saturday 23rd July 2016 with music and bring your own drinks.

Between 10 and 5