The Light Bulb Moment - The Artist's Concept

Angus Taylor’s sculpture of Brenda Fassie is the result of several transitions — here he works on the second clay version.
Angus Taylor’s sculpture of Brenda Fassie is the result of several transitions — here he works on the second clay version.
Picture Simphiwe Mbokazi © Sunday Times

By Gillian Anstey

As the starting point, Angus Taylor was presented with José Villa Soberon's sculpture of John Lennon in a park in Havana, Cuba.

It was this work that sparked his concept of two performer's stools on a stage - with Brenda on one, the other inviting the viewer of the sculpture to sit alongside her.

Taylor started with research. "The better you understand the person you are working with, the better the sculpture will relay not just facial features. Hopefully character and body language will come through too."

For weeks Taylor's studio at his foundry in Pretoria was filled with photos of the singer, including one he blew up to poster size. A DVD, released after Fassie's death, of her performing and being interviewed, played continuously on a TV screen. Taylor also used a live model to perfect Fassie's pose and to position the muscles correctly.

First he sculpted Fassie in potter's clay. Then a silicone mould was made into which he cast the oil-based clay copy of the sculpture. This clay was then finely modelled. Onto her body, Taylor added text - some of Brenda's most famous sayings - before making a second silicone rubber mould. Then a wax copy was made and set within a ceramic shell mould. The wax was burnt out and 1 300° molten bronze was poured in.

When the solid metal had cooled, the ceramic shell was chiselled off. Each part was cleaned, welded together and polished before developing the patina, in a process whereby the bronze is rusted to the desired colour. Finally, the sculpture was sealed with wax and transported to the site in Newtown, Johannesburg.

It looks exactly like her. Who knows if she would have liked it? She was so crazy.

The creative process is seldom without hiccups. One morning a Sunday Times team arrived at the foundry to find Taylor reworking Fassie's facial features. "I chopped her head off last night," he said. "And I turned her arms around... Everything's changed!"

The final product is a 1.57m life-size bronze sculpture sitting on a stool, next to another empty stool and in front of a standing microphone. The piece is mounted on a bronze stage, 350mm high with a 200mm step-up. There is text superimposed on the body, all quotes by Fassie on her relationship with the media.

From the moment the Fassie sculpture started to be installed outside the Bassline in Newtown, Johannesburg, passers-by strolling along the paved walkway expressed astonishment.

"That's Brenda, isn't it? It looks like she is going to say 'Hello'. Is she going to stay here?" were some of the comments.

One man stopped to ask what was happening. "It looks exactly like her," he said, laughing. "Who knows if she would have liked it? She was so crazy."



back to the Brenda Fassie memorial page

"I like to create controversy. I'm going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible."
Brenda Fassie
Brenda Fassie, 1984
Picture: Joe Sefale © Sunday Times


Newspaper sources: An exercise in image-making

In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about different images that the media communicate. They will see that one person can be represented in many different ways, or that one person has different sides. Brenda Fassie was a very complex person.

Lesson page
You′ll need the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader to view these lesson plans. Download it here.
Archive Photo Gallery
MaBrrr channels Madonna and other great divas.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Watch the Brenda sculpture develop from clay mould to glowing likeness of the queen of African pop.
Orbituary audio archive
Listen to SAfm/Metro FM’s obituary of Brenda, broadcast on May 10, 2004 (5’42").
Go on a 360° virtual tour of the Brenda Fassie memorial, located at Bassline, in the Newtown precinct of Johannesburg.
Madiba remembers Princess Brenda
Madiba describes his surprise when he heard Princess Brenda coming down the stairs in his house
Zola Budd Track
The Sunday Times Heritage Project’s first memorial is to Brenda Fassie, a woman variously described as the Queen of African pop and the Madonna of the Townships
Brenda Fassie and Zola Budd
MaBrrr struts her stuff and takes on taxi drivers with her big hit, “Zola Budd”