The Sculpture Art Park in Polokwane offers a selection of statues, including old Boer generals and massed giraffe. But the most remarkable pieces revolve around two different music styles, namely Kwela, which is associated with the townships, and boeremusiek, which comes from the Afrikaner tradition and the Voortrekkers who once settled here.

Did you know?

The nearby Polokwane Art Museum displays more than 800 works, many of them produced locally.

The Sculpture Art Park in Polokwane, the capital city of Limpopo province, is full of artistic and cultural surprises. It is said that Polokwane has more public sculptures per capita in its parks than any other South African city.

Polokwane was once known as Pietersburg, a stronghold of the then-ruling white Afrikaner group known as the Boers – so there are still many statues celebrating the deeds of various Boer leaders.

But as you wander around the city’s Sculpture Art Park, pay special attention to two sets of sculptures. The fact that they occupy space in a single park is culturally significant, for they celebrate the music of two former rival groups: indigenous African people and the Boers.

First, we stop at The Boy with the Penny Whistle, a simple piece of art that has captured a young township musician. Initially known in urban South Africa as ‘penny-whistle jive’, this new music form later became known as Kwela.

It began in the rural areas with young cattle herders playing three-holed reed flutes. When they grew into manhood and moved to the cities, they ‘urbanised’ their sound with six-holed flutes.The sound became a popular street music form and was later brought to the mainstream by South African bands like Mango Groove.

Not far from the penny-whistler stands a bunch of dandy gents who represent – in statue form – the archetypal boereorkes (Boer orchestra).

You will still find a boereorkes playing in small towns, and at private weddings, public functions attended by Afrikaners and at festivals around the country. These include groups like the Klipwerf Orkes from Calvinia in the Northern Cape, which has sold more than a million albums locally, and is still in great demand.

Look a little closer at the double-bass player and, if you’ve spent time in the South African music scene, you’ll recognise Rod Dry of the Silver Creek Mountain Band, a Karoo-based bluegrass group still playing after 40 years.

Travel tips & Planning info

Related articles