n De Arte - Art and justice : the art of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen (Ed.) : book reviews

Volume 2009, Issue 80
  • ISSN : 0004-3389
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Since its official opening - appropriately on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2004 - the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg has been credited with a particular symbolic and political significance. In his opening address, then President Thabo Mbeki suggested that the building represents 'a shining beacon of hope for the protection of human rights and the advancement of human liberty and dignity' (Garson 2004), while the Johannesburg Development Agency website (Communications 2006) described it as 'a place of solidarity and democracy in this country'. The building has also been hailed as a concrete symbol of the human-rights culture that informs South Africa's democratic constitution; effectively a 'remarkable feat of architectural daring and hope' and thus 'the most important building of South Africa's new democracy' (Law- Viljoen 2006:7). Viewed in the context of South Africa's existing public architecture,whose monumentality is derived entirely from European and North-American models, the Constitutional Court certainly suggests a radical point of departure for rethinking the role of public buildings and public spaces in imagining and constructing a postcolonial South African identity predicated on notions of 'unity in diversity'.

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