THE IMPALA are back in the Ernest Oppenheimer Park. They used to frolic in the fountain in the centre of the park in the 1980s and 90s before they were vandalised and removed. Now a new sculpture of 14 impala sits on a plinth in the park.

The park has been restored to a place of relaxation for inner city workers once again, in a project overseen by the Johannesburg Development Agency.

The delightful set of cast iron impala, some eating, some sitting and some staring ahead with large ears alert, stand together, as they would in the wild.

The original impala sculpture, called the Impala Stampede, now stands opposite the headquarters of Anglo American in Main Street, restored and jumping in an arc over a fountain.

The Ernest Oppenheimer diamond, the focal point of the parkThe Ernest Oppenheimer diamond, the focal point of the park
The new-look park commemorates the history of the site too. In the early 1900s the Standard Theatre was situated on the site. A replica wooden facade three metres tall has been created and erected in the park, together with a similar facade of the neighbouring Rissik Street Post Office, standing two metres high.

The focal point of the park is a rough-cut diamond crystal, considered to be the most beautiful in the world. Referred to as the Ernest Oppenheimer diamond, the 236-carat diamond is made of stainless steel and scaled up to 50 times the original size, standing two metres tall.

Several steel word sculptures have also been erected. They read: JOZI nothing is impossible; MJIPPA you give me courage; EGOLI you make my dreams come true; and MZANSI uniting the world. They are erected on concrete plinths with seating, allowing Joburgers to sit and lean against the wording.

The park also has toilets now, as well as a small basketball court, catering for the many Joburgers who live in the city centre these days. A small amphitheatre, seating around 40 people, has also been created.

A facade in Rhodesian teak of the neighbouring Rissik Street Post Office stands two metres high

Attractive flower beds have been planted, contrasting with the paved walkways. Three mature thorn trees provide shade.

The park is enclosed in an arty metal slated fence.

The artworks have been done by Sipho Gwala, Malakia Mothapo, Mfundo Ketye, Stone Mabunda, Trinity Session and The Library.

“We have tried to create something for everybody,” says Joy Jacobs, project manager at the JDA.

The neighbouring post office, an eyesore at present, is undergoing restoration.

The park will be jointly maintained by Joburg City Parks and the Retail Improvement District.