Strolling along Plein Street in Stellenbosch (Cape) on our visit in March, we came on a really interesting structure in front of the Town Hall, the Mandela Monument Wall.
At first glance this is a map in metal relief on a stone wall—a map of places significant to Mandela. But as you step closer and to the side something amazing happens: the metal bits align and change into an image of Mandela’s face. At first, my camera viewfinder saw it, but then my naked eye did too, depending on where I stood. It’s a really clever arrangement, to create this optical illusion. In fact, my camera had trouble NOT seeing the face!
I wanted to find out more.
Unveiled in early October 2013, the structure was created by landscape artist Strijdom van der Merwe and approved by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It is a large concrete block with a white marble covering, on which a map of a part of South Africa is etched on either side. The side facing east (the Town Hall side of the structure) has a map of the east side of South Africa, including Mandela’s birthplace in the Transkei and his home and workplace in Johannesburg before his incarceration. On the West side facing Plein Street, the map reflects the Western Cape, and the three prisons in which Mr. Mandela spent a large part of his life—Pollsmoor, Robben Island, and Victor Verster (now Drakenstein).
A laser cut silhouette of Madiba’s face in 20mm (about ¾ inch) Corten steel is placed in front of the marble block ‘canvas’.
What is really interesting about the artwork is how multi-faceted it is, and how the map and the steel look different in representing Mr. Mandela depending on how close or far away you are from it.
A long strip of white paving leads from the information board to the monument wall, inscribed with some of the famous words from Mandela’s Inaugural Speech in 1994 in Pretoria (see words below). It was a great speech and it, plus Mandela, are being doubly recognized right now, so soon after his death in December 2013. Everywhere in South Africa are tributes and recognitions to this great late leader.
This monument is also interesting as in a way it follows/copies some facets of the design of the new Mandela Capture Monument in Howick—which we were also able to visit this time in South Africa. See here: https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/nelson-mandela-capture-site-in-south-africa/
The famous words:
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”
If you are interested, here are links to the text of both Mandela’s Inaugural speeches.
http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=3132 (Pretoria speech, May 10, 1994)