13 December 2013
People living near the centre of Johannesburg will be able to witness a unique light show each night until Sunday as Brand South Africa projects the colours of the national flag into the sky from Constitution Hill.
The sky lights were first lit up on Wednesday, and will be lit up daily from 6pm to 2pm until Sunday night, the day of Mandela’s burial at his birthplace in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
“One of the greatest gifts [Mandela] bequeathed to this nation is the courage and strength to believe in a tomorrow that is better than today, a tomorrow in which our people live in dignity and prosperity,” Brand South Africa Chairperson Chichi Maponya said in a statement following Mandela’s passing last Thursday.
“It is now up to each of us to carry his work forward, to play our part to ensure his legacy endures and South Africa continues to inspire triumph over seemingly insurmountable challenges.”
Constitution Hill, overlooking the city of Johannesburg, is more than just the site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court – the highest court in the country on constitutional matters.
The multi-million rand Constitution Hill development was one of South Africa’s most ambitious public building projects following the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, and gave rise to some of the new South Africa’s most admired architecture.
A multi-purpose, multi-faceted heritage precinct in the heart of the city, Constitution Hill was built on the 100-acre site of a century-old prison complex where the leaders of every major South African liberation group – Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi among them – were once detained.
A journey to the section of Constitution Hill’s Old Fort complex that was reserved for black men, Number Four, deepens one’s understanding of how the apartheid system made criminals of “non-whites”. Number Four was once home to prisoners such as Mahatma Ghandi, Robert Sobukwe and the students of the 1976 Soweto uprising.
Mandela spent two weeks in the Old Fort’s Awaiting Trial Block, now demolished, in December 1956, before being transferred to Pretoria for the remainder of the lengthy Treason Trial.
And in August 1962, he spent a few weeks in the Old Fort hospital. He wasn’t ill, but he was kept there because of his status, and possibly because it was believed that he could more easily escape from Number Four, where the other black male prisoners were kept.
Housed in the cell where Mandela was held prisoner, a permanent exhibition documents the time that he spent both at Robben Island and at the Old Fort.
Entrance to Constitution Hill is free.