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Nelson Mandela statue unveiled on City Hall balcony

The iconic moment in which Nelson Mandela gave his first speech as a free man in Cape Town in February 1990 has been captured forever in a new monument which was recently unveiled at the City Hall.

At the unveiling which was attended by Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah, representatives of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and other dignitaries, the 1.95 metre bronze statue was revealed to the citizens of Cape Town.

It will now take pride of place on the same balcony where Nelson Mandela first addressed thousands of eager South Africans with the words “Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all”.

At the unveiling, Premier Helen Zille said: “The best way to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, is to ensure that we build an economy that creates opportunities for more citizens. This statue will form part of the new Madiba Legacy tourism route, which is expected to attract many more visitors to our region. The route begins at Robben Island, and moves through historic landmarks such as parliament, before ending here at City Hall.”

Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, said: “The statue pays tribute to a remarkable man in South African history and recalls a moment that held so much promise and opportunity, and which most South Africans will never forget.”

“As the Western Cape government, we wanted to create something that not only honours the man that Nelson Mandela was, but which will ensure that the citizens of the country he loved so dearly will also benefit. The legacy project is about growing tourism, expanding the economy to create new jobs and about telling the stories of the Western Cape in a way that honours its people.”

Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille said: “Madiba standing on that balcony after 27 years in prison, symbolised the triumph of a generation of leaders that sacrificed everything for our freedom. That historic moment has now been captured in this life-sized monument. This is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary leader and will be a physical reminder to current and future generations of the sacrifices he made during the liberation struggle. May it also serve as a reminder that we must all strive to emulate his example of living in service to others for the betterment of our communities and country.”

The tender for the statue was awarded to Koketso Growth, headed up by Dali Tambo. They commissioned artists Barry Jackson and Xhanti Mpakama to complete the tribute.

Tambo said the process began with answering the question: “How do we recall that moment in time best?”

“We wanted it to be perfect, it’s going to be there for more than 300 years with some waxing and polishing, and so you want people, now and in the future, to be gifted by it, to remember that special moment. That moment in time was precious for the country and precious for him as he tasted freedom for the first time, and precious for the world as it signalled the end of apartheid. It’s a beautiful representation and the artists did very well,” he said.

About the statue:

The statue stands at 1.95 metres tall and weighs 120 kilograms. It was cast in bronze at Sculpting Casting Services in Strand.

Nelson Mandela wears a grey suit identical to the one worn on the day and even his accessories, including a polka dot print tie, belt buckle and a white pocket square have been included as details.

In his hand, he holds a page bearing the first paragraph from the speech. The same text is featured in braille on the page too. He also holds a pair of spectacles in his hand. On the day, Mr Mandela had left his glasses in the car and borrowed a pair from Winnie Mandela. In photographs from the day, he is seen wearing the large frames. So as not to detract from his facial features, but to retain historical accuracy, the artists have placed the spectacles in his hand.

The original design was made as a small maquette, and once provincial and city officials were happy with the design, it was 3D printed at full size in a foam that could be easily carved. The detail was then added using a kind of putty, before the statue was cast in bronze. Details were changed several times before the final version was agreed upon – with changes being made to the face and head over the design process, which took several months.

About the artists:

Barry Jackson and Xhanti Mpakama are no strangers to sculpting national icons. Both artists were involved in the bronze bust of Madiba at Parliament and worked together to create the Nelson Mandela statue which leads the Long March to Freedom parade of statues created by Dali Tambo in Pretoria. Individually, the two artists also sculpted several of the 100 statues in the Long March to Freedom.

Barry Jackson started his career as a creative in the advertising industry but chose to focus on sculpture in the 1980s. Xhanti Mpakama started his career as an artist sculpting small works, and took up an opportunity in 2011 to be mentored by Jackson and to create larger works.

The pair have a good working relationship. Jackson says they get along well and joke as they work. He describes his style as more “spontaneous” while he says Mpakama is a more “disciplined” artist.

Mpakama says there is mutual respect. “You must respect your union and the fact that you are working together. In order to achieve better results, you must both be pleased with each and every stage and detail.”


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