Just outside Howick, some 56 miles south of Durban, South Africa, on the R102 highway, Nelson Mandela was put in handcuffs and led away to be incarcerated for the next 27 years on Robben Island. It was August 1962, and after his arrest by apartheid security forces, Mandela was charged with treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.
After a campaign to free him went worldwide, he became a symbol of the fight for equality in South Africa. After his release he led his country as President, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and became an international statesman welcomed around the world. He died in 2013, aged 95, and his birthday, 18 July, is now internationally celebrated as ‘Mandela Day’.
It was back at that spot where his arrest took place, between farmland that once was roamed by the Zulus, that Mandela was honored by the unveiling of this striking sculpture on 5 August, 2012, exactly 50 years later. Created by Marco Cianfanelli, the work is made from 50 steel charcoal columns that create Mandela’s head when viewed from a certain angle.
“The front of the sculpture is a portrait of Mandela, it has vertical bars which represent his imprisonment,” said Cianfanelli. “When you walk through the structure it’s radiates like a burst of light, which symbolises the political uprising of many people and solidarity.”
The unveiling was attended by the current premier Jacob Zuma, and his hope is that the site could become part of a political tourist trail for those exploring the country, and that South Africans cherish it as a heritage site. Nearby are Howick Falls, where the Umgemi River falls over 300 feet on its way to the Indian Ocean, and Howick honoured Mandela with “The Freedom of Howick” back in 1996. An older plaque marking Mandela’s imprisonment stands opposite the sculpture.
Whether or not it moves onto the tourist trail, the sculpture itself will hope to maintain the memory of one of the world’s most inspiring political figures of the last century well into this one – and the next.
Nelson Mandela sculpture, R102 highway outside Howick, located on the N3 freeway, around an hour’s drive south of Durban.