Monday, 12 December 2011

The Art of Cemetery Statuery. (2)

In which we visit a few other cemeteries to see what they have in the line of Statuery. This page is a continuation from the first part of this post.
http://gravehunter-drw.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/art-of-cemetery-statuery-1.html

Our journey in the quest for statues and angels now takes us to the East Rand where there is a particular gem of a cem called Primrose Cemetery. There are a lot of angels here, and a lot have been vandalised too


This particular piece pretty much dominates the angel experience of Primrose, she is huge, and dates either from 1909 or 1937 judging by the inscription.


This statue looks over a large family plot, and it is difficult to say what gender it is, interestingly enough, it is wearing shoes! many angels and statues are barefoot.


This classic beauty is on a grave dated 1904, and is really a beautiful work. Whether it is an off the shelf statue or not I do not know, but it is not a statue of mourning, it is more a celebration of a life. 


A 1937 off the shelf angel with a missing hand graces this pathway. She has somewhat of a disapproving look about her, but maybe it is because of her missing hand? 


The example above is on a 1930 grave, and she has a very different look to the conventional off the shelf angel, it is a very attractive statue, and not one that I have seen in other cemeteries. 


While technically not a statue, this wonderful headstone is a work of art on its own. The grave dates from 1927, and considering how long it has been standing is in a remarkable condition. 

Of course cherubs and children are well represented in Primrose, and I do have a few favourites. I am very fond of this work, but I am afraid that the stability of the piece is very poor. She is on the grave of a 15 year old who died in 1923. I suspect that she too may only a photograph in a family album, and a long forgotten grave in a cemetery.


And who knows how long ago it was when this pair were dislodged from their perch.


And it is time to leave Primrose and the many graves, angels and statues that make it their home.

The cemetery is in a mining area and as such reflects the lives and deaths of the working class people who lived around it. It is an old cemetery, and one of those faded ladies that has been a part of the landscape for many years. I won't say it is a favourite of mine, but I did enjoy gravehunting in it because there was a lot to find, and of course it had beautiful pieces of funeral art in it.

We now head north and west once again towards a cemetery called  Panorama Cemetery which is near Wilgeheuwel. It has probably the best collection of newer artwork that I have seen. It's a well maintained cemetery too, and one of my favourites. Unfortunately it does have a subsidence problem, so it seems to no longer be in regular use, but it has some wonderful imaginative work in it.


It is also home to what I call "the Panorama Ladies". Modern statues often done out in hues of brown or gold. The sort of thing Victorians would have frowned upon.


There are at least 8 of these life sized statues in the cemetery, and if that's not enough, one of them has a sting in her tail. A swarm of bees has set up home in the pedestal she stands on. I will not disclose which one it is though. Then there are "the sisters" which don't really need any explanation.


I have seen smaller cherubs in pairs on graves, but never a pair of full sized angels. In fact Panorama has another grave with twin angels on it. I think that is what I like about this cemetery, it has an eclectic mix of statues, ranging from the naked ladies right down to lions, cherubs and large eagles. 



My tour heads west once again to Randfontein and to Greenhills Cemetery which is more prone to headstones in the shape of rugby balls, cars and tires. Occasionally there are cherubs.


One little chap in a curious state of undress is a puzzle. Just how did he manage to loose an elbow?


and where are his pants?

And, as I was driving away I could not help noticing that somebody was giving me a rear look......


A look that is becoming quite popular is the large eagle. I have seen it in a number of cemeteries, as well as outside houses. And while it looks really impressive I don't know what the neighbours have to say about having a giant budgie next to them.



I want to make a quick diversion to Pretoria to show off one of the real gems that you can find in the old Church Street Cemetery. You cannot help but admire the magnificent statue of Burgher Desire De Villiers. Its a magnificent piece of work and should really be in a museum. There must be a story behind it somewhere.


He is in good company in Pretoria, because Paul Kruger is scowling close by. Unfortunately he is difficult to photograph at the best of times.


And then there is the debating squad. It is always great to see a group like this, especially when they are all different.

And of course there is this magnificent work below, which is actually quite intimidating now that I take a close look.


It is amazing what you can find in these cemeteries. I have not even touched on headstones in all their weird and wonderful shapes and permutations. Neither have I shown my complete collection, because space limitations on these blogs does become an issue, especially when the page is image intensive as a photo page tend to be.  
I do not always profess to understand the reasoning and motivation behind these statues and monuments, but the reality is that you need to view them in the context of the family and mourning.
It is also about never forgetting, although one day when everybody is gone only that statue will remain to bear silent witness. This is very true for  the grand Victorian garden cemeteries in the United Kingdom where complete mausoleums were built for a family and it is now a derelict ruin in an urban forest. I am still working on those pages, and it will take some time to get them finished.
Sadly the reality in South Africa is as such that many of the cemeteries are rapidly becoming no-go areas as safety becomes more of an issue and municipality inefficiency increases. Already we are seeing the wholesale theft of ironwork and masonry, and vandalism is on the rise. That is also true of the UK.  

And on that somewhat depressing note I will leave you with this cute find out near Fourways, a modern fairy, and indicative of the inroads non traditional figures are making all over.

DR Walker 2011-2015. Updated 19/05/2015

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