Have you seen her? The mournful lady, dressed in full Victorian attire, standing in solitude on a small row boat in the Black River. Every year she mysteriously arrives, more or less at the same location and much to the curiosity of passers-by in their vehicles, standing there for weeks and sometimes months, before she suddenly disappears.

You can find her in the stretch of river between Mowbray and Pinelands, just north of Raapenberg road bridge, often surrounded by a horde of flamingo. Last year she appeared in blue, complete with a graduate cap and holding a rock. Was this a political statement about the #FeesMustFall movement? In 2013 she appeared as a grim reaper climbing a ladder, with another hooded figure alongside her in the boat. Every year her appearances changes.

This is the lady of Black River, a peculiar art installation that nobody seems to know much about. In the dead of night a sculpture is erected every year, with nobody ever seeing it go up. A fair bit of online sleuth work has led us to the artist behind these puzzling installations, Fred Du Preez, and we now know that the sculpture is the work of the KOP arts co-operative. The art installation aims to draw attention to this heavily polluted waterway, described by the co-operative as a”rubbish heap covered with water” – further revealing that “the only evil in this story is the ignorance of us polluting nature”. The state of the Black River is quite dreadful indeed.

A new sculpture has just been erected, and this is how you’ll see her this year.

Photography: Les Underhill

Featured photography
Fred Du Preez

Article written by

Justin Williams

Justin Williams is a born-and-bred Capetonian with a flair for writing. His icons include the late South African authors Lawrence Green, Eric Rosenthal and T.V. Bulpin, literary figures who continuously inspire him to cover the avenues of lifestyle, travel and nature in a local context. When Justin's not covering a story, he can be found in the mountains - he's a renowned wild food forager and is currently learning herbalism.