Art and Design

Exploring Art and Defining Design

THE CENOTAPH – GREAT WAR MEMORIAL – Art Deco – GARDINER STREET, DURBAN

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This Armistice Day when I visited the memorial, I could not recall it ever looking so handsome. The sparkling light of a bright sunny summer’s day in Durban was unsurpassing, and the detail on the memorial was picked out in the finest detail.

After placing a bunch of white lilies on the breast of the bronze soldier who lies supine upon a stone altar, I stood back and remembered all the young Durban boys who never came back to feel the warm sunshine on their faces.

Some had criticised the memorial as being too bright and gay. I must disagree – for the memorial is more than appropriate for the bright subtropical city that is Durban.

Rising up into the blue sky, this stone and ceramic Art Deco edifice is graced by two large winged angels in white and lapis lazuli, who between them support the soul of the dead soldier upwards towards heaven which is symbolised by a blue starry sky and a yellow radiating sun where a the white dove of the Holy Spirit awaits.

The memorial was designed by H.L.G. Pilkington and modelled by Harold Stabler and completed in 1925. The della-robbia sculpture measures over 21 feet tall and 14 tons of clay were used in the modelling. Once fashioned it took 4 months to dry before the tiles could be fired. Evidently, the figure of the soul was modeled on that of one of the Poole pottery’s employees.

Graham Leslie McCallum

Great War Memorial, Durban Durban WW1 Memorial

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