18 facts about the 9m Mandela statue

Weighing in at more than 3.5 tons, the new statue of Nelson Rolihlala Mandela unveiled on Monday 16 December 2013 at the Union Buildings shows the father of the nation stretching out his arms.

Nelson Mandela statue Union Buildings
The Nelson Mandela statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria is one of South Africa’s national heritage sites. (Image: South African Tourism)

Brand South Africa reporter
A nine-metre-tall bronze statue of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was unveiled at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on the Day of Reconciliation, bringing to a close the official 10-day mourning period for the much loved former state president, who died at his Johannesburg home on 5 December 2013.

President Jacob Zuma, who oversaw the proceedings of Monday 16 December 2013, said the Mandela statue would act as a constant reminder for the nation to maintain Madiba’s values of unity, reconciliation, compassion and ubuntu.

“The statue will forever remind us of Madiba’s towering vision and stature. It will remind us of his commitment, his leadership and his dedication to the struggle against apartheid. It will forever remind us of his commitment to an improved quality of life for all,” he said.

Here is a collection of interesting facts about the new Mandela statue:

  1. The R8-million statue at the Union Buildings was commissioned in June 2013.
  2. It is 9-metres high, the tallest figurative bronze sculpture of Mandela. The tallest memorial is Marco Cianfanelli’s steel construction at the capture site near Howick in KwaZulu Natal, which is 9.48-metres tall. Cianfanelli’s sculpture commemorates the arrest of Mandela in 1962.
  3. Made out of bronze, the statue weighs 3.5 tons. The stainless steel armature inside the statue weighs an additional 800kg.
  4. The “wingspan” of the statue – from fingertip to fingertip – is eight metres.
  5. It was initially commissioned by the National Heritage Council, an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, as part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of the Union Buildings, South Africa’s seat of government, in Pretoria.
  6. The statue is situated at the Union Buildings, the same place where Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994. Zuma has since declared the Union Buildings a national heritage site.
  7. South African sculptors André Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren were responsible for creating the statue. The artists are part of a stable of sculptors who have been working on various projects for the government’s Long Walk to Freedom project.
  8. In the past Prinsloo and Janse van Vuuren worked together on the sculptures of Chief Langalibalele and Dr Abdullah Abdurahman.
  9. According to Prinsloo’s site, the sculptors considered various poses like the Raised Fist Salute, but in the Spirit of Reconciliation the current open arm pose was suggested. This was approved and accepted by the client.
  10. The project was overseen by Dali Tambo, the son of struggle veteran Oliver Tambo, who was a close friend of Mandela’s. Tambo is the chief executive of Koketso Growth, which managed the project on behalf of the NHC.
  11. The project received final approval in mid-July 2013, giving the artists just four months to complete the giant statue. “We finished it in record time,” Prinsloo said in an interview with IOL.
  12. The statue was cast in 147 pieces at four different foundries before it was assembled in Cape Town.
  13. Metal work and engineering was carried out with assistance from the Knight brothers at Sculpture Casting Services Foundary in Cape Town. The legs and arms were cast by the company’s branch in Nottingham road in KwaZulu-Natal and transported to the site by flat-bed truck.
  14. It took three weeks to complete constructing the giant statue with a complementary team of 35 workers, Prinsloo said.
  15. The statue shows a smiling Mandela, with his arms stretched out and his hands open, as if to embrace the nation. “You will notice that in all the statues that have been made of Madiba, he is raising his fist and at times stretching it. That derives from the slogan of the ANC,” Zuma explained at the unveiling. “This one is different from many. He is stretching out his hands. He is embracing the whole nation. You shouldn’t say this is not Madiba because we know him with his one [raised] hand.”
  16. The design was approved by a committee including Paul Mashatile, the minister of arts and culture, Tambo, and representatives from the National Heritage Council, Prinsloo said.
  17. Prinsloo told Brand South Africa that the artists considered his open arms not only as a gesture of reconiciliation, but also one of bestowing a blessing. “Mandela is looking down on the people in front of him, blessing them.” It is also in the spirit of the hymn, God bless Africa, he said.
  18. The Mandela statue stand where a figure of former prime minister James Barry Hertzog used to stand. Hertzog was prime minister from 1924-1939. “Following an exhaustive consultation process, and in the spirit of reconciliation that our country has become renowned for, the representatives of Hertzog agreed that his statue be relocated to another spot in the Union Buildings in order to make way for Madiba’s statue,” Zuma said.

“I feel honoured to have been asked to work on a statue of Madiba who have actually gone through a lot during his lifetime,” Prinsloo said in an interview with SAnews.

“After serving 27 years in prison, Madiba walk out smiling and fully embracing everyone including those who had locked him up in jail. He was not angry and never thought retaliating, so a nation, I think this statue must always remind us to embrace each other.”

This article was originally posted on 17 December 2013.

Sources: Fotoman Photography, IOL, André Prinsloo Scuplture, and South African Government News Agency.

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