A statue representing the children who passed on in the cross-fire of firearm shoot-outs in Gqeberha’s Northern Areas was unveiled today (Youth Day – June 16, 2021).The statue – titled ‘The Last Child’ – was created together with family, community members, Zano Ntobela and well-known local artist, Duncan Stewart.
It was sculpted using clothing donated by the parents of the deceased children and commissioned by National Glass, a family-owned and managed business head-quartered in Gqeberha.Some of National Glass’ staff members have lost children to stray bullets, while others have to deal with the trauma of violent acts visited upon them.
Unemployment in the Northern Areas is high, and in addition to the commission and providing the bullet-proof glass that encases the statue to symbolise the communities’ desire and efforts to protect the children, National Glass will run an integrated internship programme in a bid to help stem the socio-economic forces that fuel the behaviour.
The unveiling of the statue was attended by community members including those who have lost children to gun violence, community leaders including Christian Martin who co-ordinates efforts to make the streets safer for children, the artist Duncan Stewart and the Managing Director and other executives from National Glass as well as ward councillors and government officials.
Engraved on the plinth is a verse inspired by the well-known poem1 written in 1960 by Ingrid Jonker: ‘The child who was shot dead by soldiers in Nyanga.’
“Die kind is nie dood nie
nòg by Bethelsdorp nòg by Booysen Park
nòg by Gelvandale nòg by Helenvale
nòg deur die hele Northern Areas”
“The death of a child is the worst experience a parent can go through. No words, nor time, can fully heal the wound their child’s passing leaves behind – the memories and shattered dreams are scars that will always remain,” said Martin.
“This statue represents all the innocent young lives that have been needlessly lost in the Northern Areas, and the bullet-proof casing the communities desire and effort to protect those that remain.”
Commenting on the rationale for National Glass’ involvement with the community, Managing Director Belinda Louw said that high unemployment rates and other socio-economic factors have contributed to increased violent behaviours within the area.
Gun violence, in particular, has become a daily occurrence and children are getting caught in the crossfire while playing in their gardens or en route to and from school. No one is safe, she said, playgrounds are even out of bounds because of the risk of stray bullets.
“So many of our staff members live within the Northern Areas, and it is inspiring to see how resilient they and their communities are in the face of increasing violence,” said Louw.
“Their experiences – especially those who are parents who have lost a child – are heart-wrenching and, while we can’t ever hope to alleviate that pain, we hope that we can show our respect and sympathy with this small mark of remembrance.We are also acutely aware that the violence is driven by socio-economic factors so, while the company has always embraced youth employment and training schemes like Harambee and SAYouth2, we have decided to actively assist the Northern Areas youth through our new internship programme,” she said.
“I was very pleased to be asked to be a part of this project,” added Stewart. “A father myself, I could immediately relate to the trauma that runs through the community, the fact that children are dying needlessly because of guns, and empathise with the utter despair and sense of helplessness parents must experience daily.
“Adding to the poignancy of the project, of course, was working with the clothing of the deceased children; that was incredibly unnerving and surreal, but very necessary to deliver the most powerful message we could. I am always exceptionally keen to play a role in a social effort that seeks to be the catalyst for a change for the better, and I hope what we have done today gives the community hope and strength for the future,she concluded.”