City pays homage to Madiba and Tutu

The design elements of the mural that Linsey Levendall put together.

The R300 000 artwork was completed a week ago and sports a stained glass mural of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu referencing
St George’s Cathedral; a smiling face of Leah Tutu; a rainbow representing the rainbow nation, a baobab tree for the work of the Tutu Foundation, a laughing child; an Aids ribbon for the role the Arch played in the fight against HIV/Aids; and joined hands.

Pierrinne Leukes, the spokeswoman for Mayor Patricia de Lille, said the two years ago, the City decided to honour the lives of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu and his wife, Leah. “This is a small token of appreciation for all the work that they have done to build a better South Africa, as a son and daughter of our soil.”

The City said when the Freedom of the City, the highest honour a council could award to a person of distinction, was awarded to Archbishop Emeritus Tutu in 1998, part of his dedication read: “As a man of peace and deep-rooted spirituality, he has stood at the heart of the struggle for human rights in this country.”

The man behind the mural is artist Linsey Levendal, who also did the installation of Nelson Mandela a few years ago.

Mr Levendal, who grew up in Mandalay near to Mitchell’s Plain, but now lives in Canada, said he felt very special to be considered for the task of designing the mural of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu who is fondly referred to as the Arch by South Africans.

He recalled the similar feeling when he was approached to pitch a concept for the Nelson Mandela mural.

“I was on holiday in Cape Town a few years ago when I was first approached to pitch a concept for a potential mural paying homage to the world renowned icon and symbol of unity and peace, Nelson Mandela.

“The intention was to create a visual that embodied the essence of Mandela and the virtues he unwaveringly stood for but also to serve as a commemorative piece on behalf of the people of Cape Town.”

He said he was fortunate enough to have worked on projects for the Tutu Foundation in previous years and had one or two interactions with the Arch himself, which aided his “grasp of the magnitude of the personality being captured”.

“So when approached to do a second mural in a similar vein to the Madiba Mural, it was just as special to be considered for the task,” said Mr Levendal,

He said it was an overwhelmingly task to capture such greatness in one picture. “But the honour of doing it outweighed any concerns I might I have had.”

He said the artwork was hand-drawn, scanned, resized and digitally rendered in Photoshop. “Ideally, we are trying to tell a story in one image, so we need to establish what key elements are needed to be highlighted in the artwork.”

Once the elements are identified, they are weaved together to make them flow and produce a piece that works aesthetically.

After the rough draft is laid out, he refines the line work and the design is then approved.

“I colour the line work in Photoshop. We then have to attain approval for the colour rendering and address changes where necessary. After that stage, we proceed to fine tuning the image, making sure all loose ends are tied up. Once my side of the process is handled, I provide the agency with the final artwork who in turn take it to next phase of print and application to the building.”

Mr Levendal said seeing the final product brought him to tears. “To see one’s work at that scale and also to be tasked with conveying gratitude on behalf of the city I grew up in and so dearly love, for icons that I’d like to credit with affording me a chance to have a future in the first place, made it insurmountably more special.

“I can’t quite adequately convey the honour I feel but I’m overwhelmed to see the work celebrated and accepted as graciously as it has been by the people of Cape Town.”

He said he believes it is essential that the city centre embraces the power and positive effect murals and art have on the hearts and minds of those who use the space.

“It creates the platform and narrative that individuals have a voice, where freedom and expression is welcomed. Art enables us to engage different cultures, opinions and mindsets through imagery. It inspires and challenges us to think and engage in a diverse range of conversations necessary in sustaining a healthy community.

“Whenever you see somebody creating art in a public space, there’s often a curiosity and excitement that it triggers even to those who have no inclination to art. I’ve grown to acknowledge and believe in the immense potency of art as a tool for social change. It gives a voice to the politically or socially disenfranchised of our communities, which should be upheld and nurtured.”

Lindsey was the only one in his family to show an interest in art. From a young age, his parents recognised his passion for drawing and nurtured his enthusiasm.

“My primary school teacher at Mandalay Primary School, Michelle Smit was the first person other than my parents who noted my infatuation for creating and tried to nurture the interest. I was an extremely shy kid but art was a form of escapism where I felt I was able to present the best version of myself. I would allocate numerous hours of my day to drawing and refining my, at the time, limited skill. The comfort and solace I attained in doing so propelled me further on my path of becoming an artist.”

Mr Levendal attended Cape Town High School and the art teacher at the time, Lucinda Jolly, was the next person to recognise his artistic ability, and was the first to challenge him.

“Most people up until then would constantly tell me my work was good but she challenged my approach and instilled a critical thinking which I still practise years later.” He represented Cape Town High at the Frank Joubert Art School, in Newlands, now called the Peter Clarke Art Centre, and was introduced to graphic design, and completed a course at CPUT thereafter. After graduating, he worked as a graphic designer at a media company and was introduced to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Desmond Tutu Foundation.

He also worked as a concept artist in animation and on commercial projects for MNet, Clover and Playstation, and taught himself to use Photoshop and Illustrator.

Mr Levendal is now a self-employed illustrator and fine artist in Canada and has taken an interest in oil painting.

He will be coming to Cape Town in April for his next exhibition which opens in May, at Salon 91 in Kloof Street.