The Duma Nokwe Monument is located in front of the Johannesburg High Court on Pritchard Street, close to the courthouses. The two-meter-tall work of art, created by artist Lewis Levin, pays homage to the first black attorney licensed to the Johannesburg Bar—a somewhat hollow honour given the realities of practising law.
As the nation’s first black lawyer, Duma would triumph over his closest challenger, Nelson Mandela, in March 1956. Following the rejection of his application for chambers at His Majesty’s Building by Minister of Native Affairs Hendrik Verwoerd, he continued to share George Bizos’ quarters with him in an illegal manner from 1956 to 1962. Additionally, Nokwe had to use the Pretoria Court restroom and his own dressing room, which was humiliating. No non-white people were allowed in the common room.
Under the State of Emergency, the trialists were expected to cope without their attorneys for more than five months, making any talks between the accused and their attorneys all but impossible.
The gang then decided to launch a defence without the assistance of attorneys. The main tactic Mandela and Duma Nokwe used in preparing the case was to draw it out until the State of Emergency was repealed and the attorneys could return.
The two-dimensional, monochromatic monument was created as a part of the Sunday Times Centenary Heritage Project, which chose local artists to create 40 memorial artworks scattered across the nation in honour of the paper’s 100th birthday and to foster a sense of national identity.
Levin’s distinctive media is a light-filtering screen, and the aim behind it is to “nearly make a photographic picture that is a ghost.” Levin referred to his creation as an “urban picture”; it is a two-meter-tall flat metal structure with laser-cut perforations that depicts Duma Nokwe’s face.
Advocates have reopened offices in the area as a result of the enhancements to this area of Johannesburg. The Gordon Leith-designed Johannesburg High Court was constructed during the height of the Victorian era, and its bronze dome is a prominent landmark in the heart of the city.
Address: Duma Nokwe Monument, Johannesburg High Court, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa