The power of Kings, Queens, Judges, Speakers of the House, Archbishops and Presidents is reflected in the chairs that they occupy. Whether gilded or bound in leather, seats of power throughout time have been extravagantly built in order to overawe and intimidate. In South Africa’s apartheid history, seats of power were built to elevate the occupier of the seat above the heads of the majority of the nation.
With the advent of our constitutional democracy came the rethinking of the aesthetic of power. A pointed example is our Constitutional Court. This is where eleven judges take their seats to hear some of the most important matters in the life of the nation. They do so in a chamber that is inspired by the time-honoured African notion of justice under a tree.
Over the course of South African history, we have witnessed that a mobilised citizenry is the source of the most potent kind of power, the people’s power. Whereas the President has his seat in Pretoria and Parliament its seat in Cape Town, where is the seat of power for the people?
The People’s Chair
The Constitutional Court, the guardian of the Constitution, has eleven chairs for the eleven judges who exercise their voices and powers in the realisation of our constitutional vision. We the people, too, have the right to exercise our voices to make our Constitution real. That is why the 12th Chair is being introduced as the people’s seat of power alongside the Constitutional Court, on Constitution Hill.
In 2021, Constitution Hill put out a call for the design of a ’12th chair’ – the ‘People’s chair‘. Out of 90 submissions, judges have selected the top six designs. And now it’s up to the people to help choose the 12th Chair. View the designs below, and cast your vote here.