An engineering nightmare and a mammoth task

The Fire Walker, situated on a previously derelict traffic island site on the Newtown side of the Queen Elizabeth bridge in Johannesburg, was designed by artists William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx.

It depicts a silhouetted image of a woman entrepreneur carrying a brazier on her head to prepare food to sell to pedestrians and taxi commuters, typical of the street culture of Johannesburg and very particular to the site on which the work was installed.

The Sculpture

Depending on the angle from which it is viewed, the 11 metre tall sculpture, constructed of fragmented black and white steel pieces, creates a feeling of the figure disintegrating and becoming reassembled, hinting at the fragility of spaces of time and the people who pass through them.

Marx described the artwork as “a kind of irrational piece, with no 90º angles”, making the erection of the artwork “an engineering nightmare, and a mammoth task”.

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