Arts, Culture & Heritage

Simakade: Memorial to Deaths in Detention

Last Updated: July 30, 2023
Artist

Kagiso Pat Mautloa

A Brief History

The work was commissioned by the Sunday Times as part of its Centenary Heritage project undertaken in partnership with the South African History Archive (SAHA).

The building immediately to the west of the artwork was the infamous John Vorster police station now known as the Johannesburg Central Police Station. Between 1971 and 1990, seven people died at John Vorster Square police station while being held indefinitely under apartheid’s detention laws. An eighth man died in hospital a week after being interrogated by the security branch on the infamous tenth floor.

The lift only went to the ninth floor and political prisoners were walked up a final flight of stairs to reach the tenth. An undetermined number of detainees were tortured. The station was named after Prime Minister BJ Vorster. In September 1997, John Vorster Square was renamed to Johannesburg Central Police Station.

 

Description

The work was conceptualised, designed and fabricated by Kagiso Pat Mautloa. The title Simakade means ‘forever standing’ in Zulu – and references the resilience of detainees who were tortured and / or died at the adjacent John Vorster Square Police station and holding cells during the height of state repression in the 1970s and 80s.

The image of the chained and lacerated rock stands as a powerful symbol of fortitude in the face of the brutality that was once a commonplace event in the adjacent building.

 

Artwork Signage

The work was commissioned by the Sunday Times as part of its Centenary Heritage project undertaken in partnership with the South African History Archive (SAHA).

The building immediately to the west of the artwork was the infamous John Vorster police station now known as the Johannesburg Central Police Station. Between 1971 and 1990, seven people died at John Vorster Square police station while being held indefinitely under apartheid’s detention laws. An eighth man died in hospital a week after being interrogated by the security branch on the infamous tenth floor.

The lift only went to the ninth floor and political prisoners were walked up a final flight of stairs to reach the tenth. An undetermined number of detainees were tortured. The station was named after Prime Minister BJ Vorster. In September 1997, John Vorster Square was renamed to Johannesburg Central Police Station.

 

Location & Address

Intersection of Margaret Mcingana and Commissioner Street, Ferreirasdorp. Sidewalk close to the Johannesburg Central Police Station.