Cape Town’s “Arch for the Arch”

Cape Town recently unveiled a new monument in honor of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. One of South Africa’s most prominent human rights activists, the Arch celebrates Desmond Tutu’s contributions to the country’s democracy and peace.

Popularly known as ‘Arch’ among South Africans, the Anglican cleric Tutu was one of the leading forces against apartheid. The new structure at the entrance to Company’s Garden park in Cape Town marks the site where the Archbishop would begin many of his anti-apartheid protests.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in 2011

The 86-year-old Desmond Tutu gained prominence in the 1970s. He took an active role in the fight against the South African apartheid system, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1984. He also played a key role in the changes that followed the removal of the system. Archbishop Tutu retired from public life in 2010, after spending decades campaigning for various social rights around the globe.

The Arch itself consists of 14 pieces of wood, to represent the 14 chapters of the 1997 South African constitution to bring an end to apartheid. Its location near the country’s Parliament is also meant to make it serve as a reminder to the lawmakers to continue to preserve the human rights that Tutu fought for.

South African parliament in Cape Town

There is another layer of symbolism set in the arch. Set in the shape of a globe, this structure is not made of the more rigid stone, concrete, or steel, like so many other commemorative monuments. Instead, it is made of larch wood, which is both durable, and able to adapt to the elements over time.

A similar, smaller, arch was erected on Constitution Hill to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the country’s constitution last December. This has since become a popular stop for sightseeing visitors, much like the new Arch is also set to do.


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