“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Long Walk to Freedom
On 18 July 2018, it will be the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela, our former president, the man who shaped our country and became an international icon. What better way to celebrate than to visit the landmarks dedicated to his honour in Cape Town?
Four statues stand resolute in bronze, glimmering in the sunlight: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. These are South Africa’s four Nobel peace prize Laureates.
The bronze sculptures of the four Laureates were created by internationally acclaimed artist Claudette Schreuders, reflects the ambiguities of the search for an “African” identity in post-apartheid 21st Century. The fifth sculpture in the square, “Peace and Democracy”, created by Noria Mabasa, acknowledges the contribution of women and children to the attainment of peace in South Africa.
You don’t have to travel far until you see the giant display of Nelson Mandela’s bright smile in a colourful mosaic stretching almost the full height of the building. This is a tribute to the larger than life imprint he made in so many hearts around the world.
The commissioned work by Parliament was done with the hope of gathering people when visiting Parliament and inspiring public memory of the long road to democracy.
In celebration of twenty years of democracy the 2.28 meter bronze sculpture of Nelson Mandela was unveiled in April 2014 by President Zuma. “By unveiling this statue, Parliament is declaring that we will continue to walk in Tata’s footsteps, that we will continue to draw lessons and inspiration from his exemplary life and that we will continue to honour his memory”.
You stretch your arms out and breathe in deeply as you look upon the stunning horizon over the ocean, squint your eyes in the bright sun and gaze through a pair of giant, stainless steel Ray-Ban spectacles. What you see through these spectacles is another famous landmark, “Robben Island.”
These sunglasses were designed by an artist named Michael Elion as a tribute to Nelson Mandela on the eve of 20 years of democracy in South Africa. While looking at Robben Island, which in its own right is one of our country’s most important monuments. It reminds us of Madiba’s imprisonment and his “long walk to freedom.”
“It links us to the mind of a man whose incredible capacity to transcend enduring physical hardship, with unwavering mental fortitude and dignity, transformed the consciousness of an entire country and left a giant and lasting legacy to the world. The lenses in the sculpture are clear, they symbolise the invisible barriers and prejudices that exist in our perceptions and shape the way we view the world. Do we see the island as a paradise that represents our hopes and dreams or is it actually a prison and place of banishment? PERCEIVING FREEDOM is a testament to the power of the mind,” said Elion.
On the corner of Buitengracht and Darling Streets you’ll find one of the last major Victorian buildings erected in Cape Town. With its beautiful Italian Renaissance architecture, and 39 bells it’s a building that has seen the remarkable journey of South Africa since 1900. On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela made his first public speech after his release from the balcony. His opening words: “My friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.”
May the centenary celebrations of the life of Tata Madiba remind us to ‘be the Legacy’.