I recently participated in a public art bus tour hosted by the City of Johannesburg, honoring the legacy of Andrew (Drew) Lindsay. Drew died of a heart attack in October 2021 while sitting in his garden outside the Spaza Art Gallery in Troyeville. He was 65. If you’d like to learn more about Drew’s life, please read this wonderful article by Joburg journalist Ufrieda Ho.
I wasn’t close friends with Drew, but I knew him for nearly a decade and visited his gallery frequently. The Spaza Art Gallery has popped up in my blog many times, including my Top 10 Quirky Places in Joburg post and this post about the awe-inspiring iThemba Tower. I have several of Drew’s artworks scattered around my house and I’ve photographed his mosaics in every corner of the city.
But I was still amazed, during this tour, at the breadth and diversity of Drew’s public artwork in Joburg. Most of the pieces we visited were new to me. The tour reminded me of what a unique and exceptional human being Drew was, and how generous he was with his skills and talents. Drew’s art — and art by others whom Drew mentored and collaborated with — transformed this city for the better, and continues to do so even after he’s gone.
The Mosaics of Andrew Lindsay and the Spaza Art Gallery
Drew was best known for his mosaics, which comprised most of the works we visited on the tour (hence the tour’s name, “Moving With the Mosaic Master”). But we visited several non-mosaic artworks, too. Here are the tour’s highlights — I’m leaving out a few stops for the sake of brevity:
The Randjeslaagte Beacon, Parktown
The Ranjieslaagte Beacon marks the top corner of the original city of Joburg, as it was proclaimed on an unused triangle of land between three farms, in 1886. The beacon became a national monument in 1965, and Drew was commissioned to create a mosaic for the site ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Like so many of the other mosaics we visited on the tour, I had never been to the Ranjeslaagte Beacon before (even though it sits right on the edge of Hillbrow, where I go all the time).
Constitution Hill, Braamfontein
I’ve been to Constitution Hill, home of South Africa’s highest court, countless times. But I never knew Andrew Lindsey, together with architect Mira Fassler Kamstra and jewelry designer Vera Jooste, designed and created the spectacular copper doors to the Constitutional Court chamber. The doors are made from about 3,000 etched copper plates designed to resemble a piece of kente cloth.
Spaza Wellness Mosaic, Braamfontein
One of our most exciting stops was the brand-new Indwe Park in Braamfontein (the park hasn’t actually opened yet), where Spaza Art created a six-meter-wide “Wellness Mosaic”. Drew conceptualized the mosaic before he died, but the actual project was carried out by Dionne McDonald and a collective of artists who are continuing Spaza’s work.
The Wellness Mosaic celebrates nature and the natural wonders of Joburg — there are many more such wonders than most people realize.
This mosaic is difficult to convey in photographs; like all of the Spaza Art mosaics, it takes on a special life when you look at it in person. I hope everyone will go see it as soon as the park opens, hopefully very soon.
The Workers’ Museum, Newtown
I had been to the Workers’ Museum, a great little museum that I should really blog about, once before. But again, I didn’t know the art outside it was created by Drew and other Spaza artists.
The National Union of Miners Building, Joburg CBD
This stop, in the courtyard of the National Union of Miners (NUM) building, excited me the most. The NUM mosaic is absolutely huge and hidden away in a secret garden I’d never heard of or even known about. I also learned a lot of about Drew’s history as a political/union activist.
The Spaza Art Gallery, Troyeville
We made a quick stop at the Spaza Gallery itself to have a look at Drew’s home and garden and all the beautiful art that’s still there, maintained by Drew’s friends and family. There is still a lot of art being created and sold at Spaza.
Luckily for all of us, Drew planned for the future and left a will, establishing a board of directors for Spaza and helping ensure it will continue. But the Spaza Art Gallery needs our support (and money) to survive — I’ll include details on how you can help at the end of the post.
The Wilds, Houghton
The Wilds Municipal Nature Reserve was the final stop on the tour. Thorsten and I visit the Wilds often and we were exhausted, so we (along with a bunch of other people) skipped this last stop. But there are Spaza mosaics all over the Wilds (more are showing up all the time) and I have several photos from previous visits.
I loved doing this tour and seeing Drew’s soul shine through the art he left behind. Also it was a really well-organized tour, they gave us a lovely packed lunch, and it was free! Our tour was scheduled to be the last one, but rumor has it the City is going to organize two more in the coming weeks. Follow Joburg Culture on Facebook for upcoming announcements.
If you’d like to help keep Spaza Art Gallery’s legacy alive, please consider contributing to the Spaza 100 Fund. Spaza is looking for 100 people to donate as little as R1/day — R30/month, which is less than $2 — to keep the gallery running for a year (and beyond). The details are here:
Joburg misses you, Drew. Thank you for putting so much love and beauty into every single thing you created, no matter how big or small.