The Light Bulb Moment: The Artist's Concept

Of all the colours in the spectrum, Conrad Botes hates purple most. But it was an aversion he had to overcome to interpret the events of September 1989 that gave rise to the graffiti, "The purple shall govern".

True to his roots as a graphic artist, Botes has drawn two sets of images for display on either side of a notice board-like structure. One side is a selection of portraits of men and women in purple and black; the other side features a central image of a Casspir - an armoured personnel carrier - surrounded by smaller images of keys, books and even a Bible.

These smaller images, says Botes, represent the different people who took part in the march. They also are emblematic of the kinds of things that would have been in people's pockets as they gathered for the demonstration.

Botes and his wife, Jeanne, had to consult widely to learn how best to make the piece as durable and vandal-proof as possible.

"There were a whole lot of technical things that we didn't know anything about," says Jeanne. "We had to find out what to paint on the board before the images were printed, then what to seal it with so that the piece could be washed without losing or damaging the images."

The final product is made of aluminium, coated with polyurethane paint. The images have been screen-printed onto the surface and sealed.

The two aluminium plates will be mounted back-to-back and fixed in a frame, which will be installed at a height easy enough to read but that would discourage vandalism.
For Botes it is important that, like a comic, the images are accessible to people and the symbols can be understood by everyone

The portraits are executed in black outline - simple illustration-style. The drawings are "straightforward", says Botes.

To those who know his work as one half of the partnership that produces Bitterkomix - a series of mostly Afrikaans comics satirising South African life - the style is instantly recognisable.

For Botes it is important that, like a comic, the images are accessible to people and the symbols can be understood by everyone. He is not one to talk much about his work or to interpret it - he believes it is up to each individual viewer to draw those conclusions. As far as he is concerned, how people respond to his work usually says more about the people than about the artist or the artwork.

According to Jeanne, part of Botes's love for illustration and graphics is to communicate without words - even if, in this instance, it is in his least favourite colour.

back to the The Purple Shall Govern memorial page

"Why are they taking over our city? This is our city."
The Purple Shall Govern
The Purple March
Picture: © Obed Zilwa, Trace Images


In this lesson plan, learners will be able to compare personal accounts with a more detached report of the same incident.

Lesson plan (1.96MB)
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The Purple March - September 2, 1989
Very few photographs of the Purple March survived the police crackdown on the media at the demonstration.
The Purple Shall Govern - A highlight in a low time
A selection of images of the Heritage Project’s memorial to the Purple Shall Govern march.
Audio of The Purple March by people who were there.
Listen to accounts of the Purple March by people who were there, including Philip Ivey, the young protester who turned the jet of purple dye on the police.
360° virtual tour of the memorial at the corner of Burg and Church Streets, Cape Town.
The day The Purple governed Cape Town
In September 1989, during a protest march in Cape Town, police turned a water-cannon filled with purple dye on the demonstrators in an attempt to make it easier to arrest them. But one brave man, Philip Ivey, hijacked one of the cannons and turned the lur