Trojan Horse III by Willie Bester is on show at Robert Bowman Modern
from 1st July 2010. The title of the work refers to the Trojan Horse Massacre. In October 1985, heightened tensions between anti-apartheid demonstrators and police came to a head in the Cape Town suburb of Athlone. Eleven days after the Government declared a state of emergency in other parts of the country, police hidden in the back of a South African Railways truck fired directly into a hundred-strong crowd at an intersection on Thornton Road. Michael Miranda, 11, Shaun Magmoed, 16, and Jonathan Claasen, 21, were killed. Thirteen others were injured. Because it was an ambush, the incident became known as the Trojan Horse Massacre. 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
Bester was moved to create a series of three sculptures about the Trojan Horse Massacre with Trojan Horse III being the last and most powerful in the series. Unlike these earlier examples, which evoke the feel of African scrap metal toys as a reminder of the child victims, Trojan Horse III is characterized by an extraordinary sense of energy and vitality.
Amongst the countless acts of violence that befell the South African people during this time, the Trojan Horse Massacre marked a turning point in the struggle against apartheid as it was captured by international cameras and beamed to the world. CBS cameraman Chris Eversons footage served to strengthen the resolve of international communities to move against apartheid.
The sculpture is made from parts of cars and motorcycles that Bester has transformed from scrap metal into a truly dynamic and naturalistic animal. Throughout the series, Bester uses a particular vocabulary of forms to focus attention on the transformation of flesh and blood into dehumanised cogs. Bester originally asked permission from the South African police to use decommissioned Kalashnikov rifles; to signify the smuggling of arms on the African Continent, but he was politely and firmly told that they were all to be melted down.
Besters work charts the dramatic social and political developments in South Africa over the past 25 years. His account of social change is not idealistic. Instead, he continues to address issues of corruption and Government accountability in the new South Africa. About his work, Bester comments, We were naïve about the state of things in South Africa; we thought things would be different. We wanted to believe that our culture had changed, because we so badly wanted things to be different so that we could move forward. But its impossible to forget the past because it influences our future. This is why I document these events, so that we do not forget.
Born in Montagu, South Africa in 1956, Bester has received international acclaim for his thought-provoking work. Since the early 1990s, he has exhibited extensively throughout Africa, Europe, and the Americas, including the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Museum of Modern Art (Oxford); the South African National Gallery (Cape Town); the Venice Biennale (1993), the 5th Havana Biennale (Cuba), and the 1998 Dakar Biennale in Senegal. In 2004, Besters work was included in the landmark exhibition Africa Remix, organized by Museumkunstpalast Düsseldorf (Germany), which subsequently travelled to the Hayward Gallery (London), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), and the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo).
Trojan Horse III was exhibited at the National Gallery of South Africa in Cape Town in January 2008. The exhibition at Robert Bowman Modern marks the first time this sculpture has been shown in the UK.