On this day, when Nelson Mandela completes 95 years of a life entirely dedicated to the struggle against apartheid, fighting for his strong beliefs in freedom, peace, dignity, solidarity and reconciliation – among so many other equally deep and relevant human values – our contribution could not address any other subject.
A deeply touching and impressive monument to this icon of Peace, designed by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s capture, now stands at the precise site where he was arrested in 1962, along the road R103, near Howick, about 90km south of the city of Durban, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
Made of 50 painted laser-cut steel columns standing 6.5m and 9m high, firmly held on to the ground by concrete, this is a quietly powerful and extremely moving sculpture, silently proclaiming Madiba’s message to the world, while also evoking the overwhelming paradox and political irony of his course in life.
This is achieved by means of how the sculpture has been designed and implanted on the dramatically lonely landscape. Depending on how we approach the monument, we can either see plain, uneven-edged steel bars reminding us of his imprisonment, or the contours of his meditative face gradually becoming visible in a magnificent rendering that is at the same time striking and touching.
This is an artwork that, owing to the characteristics of the site where it stands and to its dimensions, is best seen from a distance, although you can walk around it and feel both the impact of the material itself – the mentioned steel bars – and its effect on the silent surrounding open space. As the light changes throughout the day, the visual effect of the sculpture seems to capture different nuances which either make it seem to melt into the atmosphere behind and around it, or to stand out in a compelling contrast, fittingly heralding the paradox that has made Mandela’s life resonant throughout the world.
The very title of this artwork echoes the circumstances of Nelson Mandela’s life: “Release”. This could apply both to his struggle to free his country from apartheid, to his own release in 1990 after 27 years in prison, and to the message of Peace and Reconciliation he has spread to all humankind.
In fact, this is a piece of art that touches the heart!