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Dan builds Tree of Wisdom for Madiba school

President Jacob Zuma officially opened The Science and Technology School in Mvezo last Friday. The school was inspired by former president Nelson Mandela, said his grandson Mandla – pictured here with Daniel Popper – arguably one of SA’s most innovative young artists. Dan built a 4-story high tree for the school as well as the surrounding infrastructure.





The school was commissioned “mainly because of (Madiba’s) vision and the manner he regarded education to be a weapon which one could utilise to change the world,” said Mandla about the Mandela School of Science and Technology.

“That is really the ethos that informs us… as a nation to do better and to strive to contribute towards humanity,” Mandela said.

Popper treeThe school, which is surrounded by green hills, is the first high school in Mvezo. Before it was built, children had to leave home to go to high school in Mthatha, about 50km away, and often dropped out.

Tree of Wisdom

Mandla said parents and locals were motivated and committed to the school’s success. The school runs on renewable energy. There are three big wind turbines in front of the school. Each classroom block is fitted with solar panels.

On the school grounds is a metal sculpture of a tree, called the Tree of Wisdom which was commissioned from Dan Popper. Surrounding it are wooden benches into which Dan has etched inspirational quotes.

Popper Tree openingHow it came about

“It was then crucial for us, as the leadership of this community, to look at how we could come up with a mechanism to ensure that we are able to build an end-to-end programme for the kids of this community,” Mandela said.

“We initiated the project by firstly speaking to—world-cup.jpg” />Who is Daniel Popper?


The Tree of Wisdom sculpture at the new Mandela School of Science & Technology by artist Daniel Popper celebrates Nelson Mandela’s contribution to education.

 Popper at Tree opening


Born in 1983 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Daniel Popper is a man with a knack for creating artworks that bring fantasy to life – something that has always had the support of his parents Mike and Cookie.

Having earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with distinction in Oil Painting) at the renowned Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town in 2006, his career has developed onto a global stage with many mediums of art such as puppetry, performance, instillation and sculpture


Popper - Afrika Burn


See the burning version on HOME PAGE or on ALL SAJR VIDEOS


The spark that ignited Daniel’s career was the creation of his first giant puppet for the AfrikaBurn art festival in 2007. The attention generated by this saw Daniel commissioned by mobile operator MTN to produce 14 more for Fan Fests around South Africa during the FIFA World Cup 2010.

At the same time, Daniel’s solo exhibition of oil paintings was held at the Obert Contemporary gallery in Johannesburg. Since 2010, the popularity of Daniel’s puppets have seen him interviewed on South African television for shows such as Woza M-net, Supersport and Top Billing, and saw him take the puppets to the Portuguese electronic music festival, Boom, and build a new giant puppet for the Young Illustrators Awards in Berlin.

Expanding his work on puppets, 2011 saw Daniels’ gorilla puppet featured at many Cape Town events (such as Earthdance, the J&B Met, an MTV Base concert and the Adderley Street parade). In the same year Daniel participated in a group painting show at Salon 91, with his oil paintings curated by Andrew Lamprecht in an exhibition titled ‘Figuring Difference’.

On his return to AfrikaBurn in 2011, Daniel’s large-scale sculpture ‘Hand Of God’, which featured an Argon laser that beamed across the festival site, was a highlight for many festivalgoers.

This sculpture was instrumental in Daniel being commissioned by Siemens and Ogilvy to create a 15-metre Baobab tree featured 3,000 LED lights and was powered by solar panels and bicycles, for the COP17 climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.

In 2011, Daniel attended the Burning Man festival in Nevada for the first time.

With interest in his projects growing, 2012 saw Daniel commissioned to build two 25m Quetzalcoatl serpents for the Boom Festival, which were suspended above the crowd in the main dance temple. Subsequent to this, he embarked on a world puppet tour, which saw him performing his puppets at three festivals in The Netherlands (De Deining, Zwarte Cross and A Day In The Park), as well as at Boom in Portugal and at Burning Man in the USA.

Daniel’s interest in interactive art, puppetry ,art and architecture in public spaces, stage design and installation art, continues to expand, all the while still engaging with the fine art world and oil painting.

BELOW: Surrounding the tree are wooden benches into which Daniel has etched inspirational quotes:
Popper bench Bottom

Daniel Popper currently lives and works in Cape Town. See more on his WEBSITE

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  1. David Shapiro

    Jan 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    ‘WOW!!!Danny,well done!!! All the amazing art work that you have done.CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! from Melanie and I.

    David & Melanie Shapiro’

  2. Gary Wolff

    Jan 25, 2014 at 3:59 am

    ‘Wow Danny! It’s amazing to see you grow into a world renowned artist. Keep your dream alive and the inspiration flowing. Mazeltov!’

  3. Merle and Dave

    Jan 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    ‘So thrilled you are getting the recognition you so deserve. Mazeltov Dan, may you just go from strength to strength ! All our love’

  4. terry diamond

    Jan 26, 2014 at 12:30 am

    ‘Danny, absolutely amazing! so very proud of you. Keep building, the sky is the limit.

    Diamond Clan’

  5. Leanne Dogon

    Jan 26, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    ‘Danny your work is truly inspirational! I am so proud to have an original Danny Popper hanging in my home. May your talent take you to great heights.’

  6. gail

    Jan 28, 2014 at 8:20 am

    ‘wow Danny , your work is so impressive. What an incredible talent you have. keep it up. your wonderful parents must be so proud of you,’

  7. Dan Shamir

    Jan 28, 2014 at 8:27 am

    ‘Would this incredibleyoung talent be prepared to consider a commissionin Israel? HBow can we get hold of him? ‘

  8. Ant Katz

    Jan 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

    ‘Hi Dan,

    Daniel’s website link is just above these comments – or you could mail me [email protected] and I can forward on to him. As far as I am aware he is in Melbourne Australia right now so don’t try and phone him.

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi



More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations



The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke



The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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