By Nii B. Andrews.

From the 80s to the dismantling of apartheid during the 90s, the homegrown Casspir was a well nigh ubiquitous sight on the South African landscape.

It did everything.

It was used as a tool of fear and intimidation; creating roadblocks; driving on top of sheds, houses, cars; demolishing everything including human bodies.

Following the arms embargo on the apartheid republic, its leadership proceeded to develop the Casspir as an indigenous military assault vehicle.

The vehicle could withstand ambushes and mine explosions; drive at speeds of up to 100 km/hour, and was designed to stay upright and mobile in virtually any circumstance or terrain.

Since apartheid ended 30 years ago, the Casspir has been manufactured and exported to countries in Africa, the Middle East and the US…it has been seen in action in Ferguson and New York City during protests.

This weekend, at the just ended 1-54 fair in NYC, a Casspir with a twist was on display.

The feared vehicle has now been transformed – no, transmuted.

It has been completely covered in hand made beads of a vibrant color – including the dreaded gun turrets and inside rear seats where the hated police officers sat.

The project was accomplished in Africa by the artist Ralph Ziman with the assistance of close to 100 local artisans.

The African art collaborators have turned an infamous symbol of bigotry, violence and subjugation into one of cultural pride and collective healing.

This souped up Casspir – a bejeweled 11 ton, 3 meter long, 7 meter high behemoth is street-legal.

Ziman and his possé have taken the vehicle on a couple of short road trips.

It always pulls cheering crowds – a true symbol of healing and harmony from Africa to the world; reflecting Africa as it ought to be.


  1. Creativity that straddles the realm of public Art, socio’political commentary, and jigging memory associations.

    Very powerful commentary of 20th century Africa , that should resonate here too.

    For me, stark reminder that we should reappropiate heritage, negative or other , to inspire and develop the contemporary.

    Slave forts, a case in point ..
    Thanks for sharing .

  2. Greetings!

    You cannot admire the work without admiring the writer who unveils and contextualizes the stuff for the reader.

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