A very special person

We in South Africa affectionately call him the Arch, but his official title is Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. He is also one of South Africa’s Nobel peace prize winners. There was lots of activity in the Cape Town CBD last week, including the erection of a wooden arch at the entrance to the Company Gardens. We were geared up to celebrate the 86th birthday of our beloved Archbishop. A special ceremony on Saturday morning honored his wonderful contribution to freedom and democracy in South Africa. The occasion was marked by the spontaneous outburst of song from those gathered to celebrate. Birthday wishes poured in from around the world including those from the Dalai Lama and Bono.


The ‘Arch’  has a wonderful sense of humour, but he’s known for tenacity and resilience during the challenges South Africa faced pre-1994. We well remember how he stood at the forefront of marches against Apartheid and was later involved in the Truth and Reconciliation commission. He inspired empathy with his care for the people of South Africa, and especially those affected by Apartheid rule. The Anglican clergyman was very close to Nelson Mandela and both men shared a dream for the ‘Rainbow Nation’.

Building of the arch

A commemorative arch was commissioned by Design Indaba and created by Snøhetta in recognition of Tutu’s contributions. The design is a physical representation of his strength and resilient humanity. It consists of 14 intertwined strands of bent wood that represent the 14 Chapters of the South African Constitution. The arch stands at the entrance to Government Avenue, next door to St George’s Cathedral. It will remain there for five years, after which the people of Cape Town must decide whether it should stay.

See the arch on our city tour, as well as St Georges Cathedral, Desmond Tutu’s one-time “home”.