Arch For Arch – Desmond Tutu’s Monument

Arch For Arch – Desmond Tutu’s Monument

Impish wit was how Barack Obama described Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu soon after the announcement of The Arch’s death on Sunday, 26 Dec 2021. I bet Tutu prayed he wouldn’t die on Christmas Day. Many recall his wide use of prayer – even when driving back from having been nearly murdered by Apartheid’s police. I remember hearing how he prayed for all the staff of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.  

I remember his humour when he spoke at the opening of Zeitz MOCAA 22 Sept 2017. “Madiba says yes!” as he pretended to speak on the phone to Nelson Mandela, “the man above”, to quote MC Africa Melane. The organisers were not sure Tutu would make it as his health wasn’t great, not that you would know it.

I had taken my two kids out of primary school for the launch and they remember Tutu’s speech vividly and I’ll be taking them to see the Arch For Arch lit in purple to mark his death. This central Cape Town monument was the remarkable achievement of Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba. He and his team managed to get such a contemporary looking structure through not only existing trees but also the heritage and municipal authorities, as well as funding by Liberty Life.

It is in such a brilliant location – prime tourist route and appropriately spanning Cape Town’s Government Ave with St George’s Anglican Cathedral on the one side (where Tutu was Archbishop during Apartheid) and Parliament the other. I like many others, go under it to get to Company’s Garden created 1652.

At The Arch For Arch’s official opening, The Arch (as many people called him) said that his work for democracy was like an arch – it was only possible through the support of others. The keystone is said to represent South Africa’s Constitution and its 14 arches its 14 chapters. Look carefully and you’ll see key saying from the Constitution on the beams and bronze paving plaques, such as ‘Respect those who have worked to build  and develop our country’. 

The Arch For Arch marked Tutu’s 86th birthday – 7 Oct 2017.  A few months later a smaller Arch For Arch was launched at Joburg’s Constitution Hill on 10 Dec 2017, to mark 21 years of the Constitution. I hope Desmond and his wife, Leah Tutu, managed to make it there, especially as one of the designers, Thomas Chapman and his colleagues at Local Studio are based there, ditto the Croatian boat builder, Dario Farcic, who got the Siberian larch to curve so perfectly, working with engineers, Hatch. The other main designer was Craig Dykers co-founder of Oslo-based Snohetta.

The Arch For Arch got planning permission in 2017 for five years that is this year! I’m sure it will be extended. The Desmond & Leah Tutu Foundation is based close-by at the Old Granary on Buitenkant St; its stunning Cape Neo-Classical facade is pictured below, along with the Tutu’s planting a tree at its opening in 2018. It is one of Cape Town’s oldest buildings – well over 200 years old. How wonderful to have both a contemporary and historic architecture/design to mark such an iconic, important man especially in Cape Town where he chose to live and died. RIP Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – we mourn your death enormously.

Kate Crane Briggs – comments appreciated.