When 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 to protest having to carry pass books, there was no stopping them standing up for themselves. They recognised their power, and came together to have their voices heard. In that crowd were women from many different backgrounds, united in their cause for freedom, despite their different ways of self-expression. Some women wore hats as a shelter from the sun; others wore ‘doeks’ to embody their heritage. There could have been dreadlocks, hijabs, saris, tichels, caps, headwraps or hair left uncovered to display its natural form. Each head represented a woman who was showing up in exactly the way she wanted to – an individual who was proudly wearing her crown.

This Women’s Day, we are revealing a new art sculpture at the V&A Waterfront as part of our Art in Public Places programme, and it embodies our mighty August theme: ‘This is how I wear my crown’. It will be the fourth sculpture in our neighbourhood to be designed by a woman, and marks our role in supporting women in the arts.

Crown Chakra will be unveiled on 7 August outside the Nedbank Building, on the outdoor walkway between the Clocktower and Zeitz MOCAA. The sculpture by artist Vuyo Oyiya, in collaboration with Kunye Collab, is a reminder that women can be whatever they wish to be. The bold artwork, made from an eco-friendly composite material called Ecostone, has been designed by Vuyo in the shape of a woman’s face, with her hair elaborately covered in a headwrap that represents her soulful connection to her innate divinity.

“The ‘doek’ celebrates women’s beauty and strength,” says the artist, who named the piece Crown Chakra in honour of every woman who radiates her inner light out into the world. “It’s all about unity and sisterhood. We don’t have to be the same, because each one of us is powerful in our own way, no matter how we wear our crown.”

Vuyo worked with Kunye Collab to realise the piece – a sculptural incubation programme run by Art@Africa to offer skills training, studio space and residencies to artists working in bigger formats and more hard-to-access materials. For Crown Chakra, the team moulded the sculpture in Ecostone and then added a rusted metal veneer to the face, and covered the ‘doek’ with a glass-embedded layer of acrylic to allow reflections and visual interest.

Two related indoor sculptures can be viewed inside the Art@Africa gallery on the first floor of the Clocktower Centre. They too have been designed and created by Vuyo and Kunye Collab, with their ‘doeks’ painted in oil by another woman artist Lindi Scholtz, who has infused them with mesmerising patterns to instil a sense of women owning their power. One is painted with flowers under water, representing women overcoming adversity, while the other is painted with scenes of a boundless universe, as a symbol of women’s infinite love and nurturing of life.

Every time you pass by Crown Chakra at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, we hope that it will remind you of the 20,000 women who marched on behalf of the people of South Africa, and that it will encourage you to wear your own crown with power and with pride

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