A new Smallmouth Yellowfish sculpture built from over 90 rocks, weighing over 350 kilograms and stretching 7 meters is hanging suspended in mid-air in the Vaal.


The installation of an Orange-Vaal Smallmouth Yellowfish has been constructed by Deon TerBlanche, to create awareness of the plight of yellowfish in the Vaal River system.

Since 1999, the water quality of the Vaal River was one of the three river management systems in South Africa with more than 20% of the length of the river system being in a critically poor state. Failing wastewater treatment infrastructure and intensified agricultural use were the prime culprits responsible for the deterioration of the water quality.

In July this year it was reported that for more than a month raw sewage had been flowing directly into the Vaal because of mismanagement by the Emfuleni and Ngwathe local authorities.

The river has turned green and scores of dead fish have washed up on its riverbanks in the past week. When some Parys residents opened their taps that week, the water was green and “smelt of dead fish”.

The new sculpture was created to try raise awareness about the situation for the fish.

“Project Smallmouth Yellowfish” is situated at Egweni River Lodge, a favourite tourist spot on the banks of the Vaal River, mounted between the pillars of the Provincial bridge connecting the Free State and the North-West Province, the piece was placed to be visible from other lookout points as far as 500m away.

Illegal netting is implied by a multitude of wires that haphazardly criss-cross around the fish exactly as an unlawful net would. Depending on the time of day the piece looks completely different.

“The “unlawful netting wires” only start to catch the light after 15:00 in the afternoon. To me early morning around 8:00 is the best time to visit. When I was there early this morning the piece was blessed by a flight of swallows. It was breathtaking to observe them swarming around and through the stones as if they were not even there!”

The sculpture was created to raise awareness around the worst crisis the Vaal River has ever seen.

Currently, there are two areas of concern:

1.) Pollution of the Vaal River as a result of the neglect of water treatment facilities by local authorities. The main culprits are the Emfuleni and Ngwathe municipalities; both are pumping raw sewage into the Vaal River system causing the death of thousands of fish downstream.

2.) Illegal netting and cruel fish traps in and around Parys is a significant challenge.

The project was executed with the partnership of the Vaal Action Group (“VAG”) which was established to take action to address the pressing environmental challenges that threaten the Vaal River system.

Sources: Deon TerBlanche
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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