Date set for Mandela statue unveiling

26 September 2013

A new nine-metre bronze statue of Nelson Mandela will be unveiled on 16 December – South Africa’s Day of Reconciliation – at the Union Buildings in Pretoria as part of the Union Buildings’ centenary and the countdown to the country’s 20 years of freedom celebrations.

The R8-million statue will depict Madiba with his signature smile, with an open arm pose and one leg slightly extended back. The statue is still being constructed by South African artists Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Jansen van Vuuren.

Prinsloo told SAnews on Thursday that it had been difficult to decide at which age they should capture South Africa’s former president. “It was an extremely difficult task because everyone knows what Mandela looks like. We eventuality decided to capture him using his images 10 years after 1994,” said Prinsloo.

The two have in the past worked together on sculptures of Chief Langalibalele and Dr Abdullah Abdurahman.

Van Vuuren said they had tried to capture Madiba as a symbol of peace, “where people can go to when they need answers”.

Prinsloo added: “This is a lifelong dream to work on such a sculpture – it is really an honour.”

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said the mounting of Mandela’s statue at the Union Buildings was “part of our ongoing work to develop new symbols and monuments that reflect our collective aspirations as South Africa and the new values we stand for”.

It has yet to be decided where the statue will be placed at the Union Buildings, but Mashatile said they wanted it to be central. “If it means moving things around, then that will be done.”

Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president at the Union Buildings on 10 May 1994, after the country’s first free elections heralded the beginning of a new era in South African history.

Mashatile said Madiba was from a generation of freedom fighters who taught the values of selflessness, humanity, integrity and respect for one another.

“The statue will ensure that we never forget their contribution to where we are and will be a reminder of what they have taught us.”

The Arts and Culture Department is also working on a national heritage monument, to be built in Tshwane, which will feature a procession of more than 400 life-size bronze statues of leaders such King Shaka and King Moesheshe, who contributed to shaping the South Africa of today.

“This will ensure that the stories of courage and determination are told in full and that they become part of a new and inclusive narrative we are crafting for our country.”

In the coming months, the department will also launch stamps and coins in celebration of Mandela’s legacy.

Mandela, who was discharged from the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria on 1 September, is recuperating at his home in Johannesburg following a lengthy hospitalisation for a recurring lung infection.

Last weekend, a nine-foot statue of Mandela was unveiled outside the entrance to South Africa’s embassy in Washington, DC.

Other famous Madiba statues include the large statue at Sandton Square in Johannesburg and the artwork at the Mandela Capture Site outside Howick in KwaZulu-Natal.

South Africa’s only life-size statue of Mandela currently stands in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.