James Delaney and Thulani Nkomo have been awarded for their incredible efforts to revive the Johannesburg Wilds, making it a place people love.
The Wilds were abandoned by the people of Johannesburg due to fear of crime, overgrown areas and general lack of upkeep. Joburg Artist, James Delaney, had a goal to reclaim the Wilds of Johannesburg. He started with a project of building owl sculptures for the trees but the project grew into something incredible.
James mobilised a group of volunteers and together they worked to revive the area. They pulled out dead trees, replanted flower beds and repainted benches.
“So, the story is simple. My back windows look into a 40-acre forested park which nobody visited. They were scared. I got a dog, so that made me less scared, and he needed walking. So I ventured in and found a wonderland of beautiful indigenous trees and stone pathways and views. But it was awfully overgrown. The most dangerous thing was a dead tree falling on your head.
So with my helper Thulani we started clearing out dead wood, pruning trees, letting the light onto flowers below, and opening up lines of sight to make it feel safer. We started about 3 years ago (I wish I’d taken more “before” pics but I didn’t realise the impact it would have).
My friends still wouldn’t come, so I came up with the idea of the owls – 67 sculptures in a century-old yellowwood forest for Mandela Day. They’re still there, quietly hidden in the canopy. Spend some quiet moments there and you can count them all.”
By adding art to the 40 acres park, people were more inclined to revisit the area. James created a reason for people to fall in love with the space. The projects have become even more exciting with bright colours and pop-up libraries. The park has now seen an influx of tours and educational groups as well.
James and Thulani, his right hand man through all the projects, recieved an award for their efforts. They were honoured with the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Social Programmes for 2017/18.
‘James Delaney and Thulani Nkomo, who led the revitalisation project at The Wilds in Johannesburg, received praise for showing stellar leadership in spearheading the revitalisation of the urban nature reserve.’
You can see all their efforts in the video below.