Grocott’s Mail
Thu, 8 Sep, 2011

I believe in silly rituals which will make wishes come true. I’m a sucker for picking up a dandelion and blowing the seeds off from its globe or making a wish on a falling star. For the St Mary’s Day Care Centre children a solid concrete sculpture called ‘Dreamer’ reminds them what their wishes are.

I lift my hat to the National Arts Festival who installed this project. Every year they plan to donate a public artwork to the community. The Centre is where Grahamstown’s poorest school children go for warm meals and tender loving.

Grahamstown needs interactive spaces for art. Sure, we have the statue of the Settler family at the entrance of the 1820 Settlers Monument, but people are going to look at that in 100 years time and be unable to relate to it. ‘Dreamer’ is timeless in that it has two simple objects: a child’s brown face and a red balloon, which are separate on two panels of the concrete square block.

Why concrete? The project was sponsored by Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) and Taljaard is familiar with the medium, winning the PPC Cement Young Concrete Sculptor Award in 2001.

This work reminds me of award-winning sculptress, Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe, whose series of concrete sculptures was on the beachfront at Sea point, Cape Town, last year. Her story, the ‘Little Girl and the Dragonfly’, is about a girl who dreams to fly and shares wings with a dragonfly.

The artist who created the Dreamer sculpture, Zach Taljaard, organised for the children to have red balloons on the day - 30th July – of the unveiling of the sculpture. It was a party amidst jumping castles, stilt walkers and dancing to the Gadra Advice Centre’s blind marimba band.

The children released their balloons into the sky and just in case that hadn’t worked they all put their hands on the sculpture and made a wish.

Jaslin Joe, 12-year -old St Mary’s primary student dreams to be a doctor and help people. He is a smart kid.

“It reminds me of my dreams. It’s great for the children because we walk past there every day,” said Joe.

Joe and his little brother have been going to the Centre for three years. Their mother passed away a few years ago and they live with their granny.

“They respect their children and we care about and love each other like brothers and sisters,” said Joe.

The Centre is always jam-packed with children, up to 70 at a time between the ages 6-18. The children go to schools closeby: George Dickinson, St Mary’s and Grahamstown primary. Most of their parents are unemployed.

Not all dreams are solid like concrete, but hopefully Joe and all the other St Mary’s children hold onto what they want for their futures. It is naïve to trust a brightly coloured, helium-inflated bag will grant your wish, but the concept of optimism is not.