Heritage Forum

Slee & Co. Architects at Architectural Biennale

Oct 2, 2012 | Forum, News

“Dit was vir ons ‘n groot eer om genooi te wees, om deel te wees van die  Argitektuur Biennale in Venisië. Ek wou ons Afrika-stof en eie herkoms op ‘n manier weerspieël – ‘n argitek maak ruimtes, ons eerste idee was om ‘n ruimt uit muisbosskerms te maak soos die Khoisan van ouds – om ‘n kamer vol muisbos te pak en ‘n ruimte uit te hol in die middel daarvan – maar dit sou ‘n logistiese nagmerrie wees, vandaar het die volstruiseiers idee ontwikkel.  Vanweë die voëlgriep onder ons volstruise moes ek egter ‘n verskaffer  in Europa vind, 300 eiers verpak en versend , die eiers het ook op ‘n stadium vir ‘n week spoorloos verdwyn tussen Duitsland & Italië, maar alles het baie goed uitgewerk. Vir die volgende drie maande gaan die publiek versigtig oor die eiers moet waggel.”

Johann Slee

With  this  installation  Slee & Co. Architects  explored  the  interconnection  between  intellectual  and physical boundaries.  The physical ostrich egg represents immense strength and is at  the  same  time  symbolical  of  the  absolute  preciousness  and  vulnerability  of  our earth.

An ostrich egg is the largest of all eggs on earth.  The yolk is therefore the largest single living cell.  A  complete  ostrich  egg  can  carry  the full  weight  of  a  large  man,  but the moment it is punctured it becomes fragile.

Symbolically  an  egg  represents  life:  new  beginnings,  creation,  fertility  and resurrection.  In ancient times the egg symbolized regeneration and immortality.  In Russia and Scandinavia eggs were put into tombs to ensure life after death.  In Ancient  Egypt  the  winged  egg  floating  above  the  mummy  carries  the  soul  to another  birth.  The  Chinese  believed  that  man  sprang  from  an  egg  dropped  by Tien, a great bird.

Like  planet  earth,  the  perfect  oval  of  an  egg  has  no  beginning  and  no  end.  It represents birth, renewal and life.  It is precious and should be guarded.

The expression ‘to walk on eggs’ exists in many languages and conveys almost the same warning in all of those ‘Take care’.

Our Life, this earth is precious, do not trample all over it, tread carefully.


  • Afrikaans: “Om op eiers te loop”: to tread very carefully.
  • English:  “Walk  on  eggs”:  to  proceed  very  cautiously,  to  be  in  a  precarious position.
  • German:  “Wie auf eieren gehen”: to step gingerly, to walk carefully.
  • Israeli: “ ” : walking heal next to a toe (very slowly & cautiously)
  • Sesotho: “E bona mahe, ha e bone leraba”: Literally, it is looking at the eggs, but does not  realize  the  trap.  Idiomatically, one  is  not  being  thoughtful  about consequences of own act.
  • French: “Marcher sur des oeufs”: acting with the greatest of caution.
  • Swahili: “Lomtfwana nimpatsisa kwelicandza”: you are treating the child like an egg.
  • Dutch: “Als op eieren lopen”: Be careful

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