Soweto’s rich history is captured in the area’s many evocative artworks; the two bulls on Vilakazi Street represent Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu respectively, standing testimony that despite the South African saying, two bulls can sometimes, indeed, occupy the same kraal.

Just opposite Soweto’s busy restaurant, Sakhumzi, and Mandela House, on Vilakazi Street, stand two steel bulls, each symbolising a South African freedom fighter: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) commissioned art production team The Trinity Session in 2009 to install the artwork as part of its public environment upgrades. Steven Hobbs, from The Trinity Sessions, says the bulls are a reference to the South African saying that that you can’t put two bulls in one kraal.

“They will fight each other until one dies, causing the loss of the cattle and the destruction of the kraal,” he said. However, it is clear that these two “bulls” worked together to end apartheid.

The public environment upgrade aimed to empower local artists and identify emerging and established artists. The bulls were created in 2010 by Mboya Morao, who, in a month, built the work using mild steel and hardwood.

Sifiso Mabhena, a Soweto resident, remembers when the bulls moved into the neighbourhood.

He recalls being baffled by the unusual artwork: “I spent the whole day looking for the artist just to get an explanation of the artwork,” he says.

Four years down the line, Mabhena sees the bulls as an inspiration. “It is because of that artwork I believe that everything we strive for in life can be achieved. It is just matter of time and patience.”

Musa Vilakazi, a Vilakazi Street resident, says he’s proud to be associated with such an artwork; “Those two bulls reflect the history of our country and they remind me of the time when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.”

Gold Ngatane, who sells curios near the artwork, says, “It’s a very iconic image, absolutely one of his best. There’s so much symbolism in that artwork.”

Thomas Tshabalala, a waiter at Sakhumzi, has a different take though.

“The two bulls represent the country’s Blue Bulls team. It’s their signage,” he says.

The bulls are popular with tourists and it’s common to see visitors taking phots of the artwork while touring Soweto.

Soweto’s rich history is captured in a number of vibrant pieces: there are murals depicting the 1976 uprising; others immortalise Hastings Ndlovu, the first child to be shot during the uprising.

Vilakazi Street itself is a part of history: Mandela lived along the street from 1946 to 1962 and briefly after his release from prison in 1990. Tutu and his family moved into the street in 1975.

Mandela House is a few kilometres up the road from the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The influential leaders were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, ten years apart, for their roles in ending apartheid.