Trojan Horse iii
Willie Bester lives in Cape Town where he was born.
He creates his artworks from diverse and unlikely things: “Machine parts, old sacking, sticks, various tin cans, sheep bones and wire netting have deep symbolic significance once they become parts of his collage.” (Dr. Saama Bawa)
The original “Trojan horse” story dates back to the wars between the cities of Troy and Greece, around the 12th century BC. After ten years, the Greek siege against the walled city of Troy was going nowhere. Finally, the Greek army generals devised a strategy: they pretended to be retreating, back to their ships – but just before departing they built a gigantic wooden horse which they left outside the gates of Troy. It had an inscription on its side declaring it to be a gift to their own goddess, Athena. As soon as the Greeks had left, the triumphant Trojans came out, and excitedly wheeled the giant horse in through the gates of their city, as a trophy of victory.
But unbeknownst to the Trojans, there were Greek soldiers hidden inside the wooden horse. Late at night they crept out, and stealthily opened the city gates to the rest of the Greek army who were silently waiting outside. Entering the city, the Greeks quickly set about destroying Troy.
Willie Bester’s sculpture is about South Africa’s own “Trojan horse massacre”. In October 1985, a number of policemen concealed themselves in the back of a South African railways truck driving into the suburb of Athlone, Cape Town, where a small crowd of about a hundred protesters had gathered. The police, till then invisible to the crowd, began to fire directly at them. Three people – including two children – were killed, and thirteen were injured. The policemen’s attack against an unarmed group was denounced as a shameful act, and became known as the “Trojan horse massacre”.
Willie Bester made three of these Trojan Horses in response to this event. He specifically chose materials that symbolised “the transformation of flesh and blood into dehumanised cogs”. Trojan Horse III is made of “violent” material, including bombshells and machine guns… “the choice of material emphasizes the horrible rationality in which those policemen, in cold blood, performed this crime. First danger hides, but then it appears surprisingly, and causes an explosion of loss.”
“Assemblage” art is made by assembling different elements – often ordinary, everyday objects – scavenged by the artist or bought specially. Picasso, Kurt Schwitters and the Dadaists (for example), all used assemblage to create strange and unexpected figures, sometimes humorous or surreal images. We see those everyday objects in a new context, carrying both their old associations and their new meanings – at the same time.