In 1962, Nelson Mandela was a known black anti-apartheid activist who had been on the run from the South African police for 17 months. On 5 August 1962 he and comrade Cecil Williams met with ANC President Albert Luthuli to report Mandela’s trip abroad, where he had received military training in Algeria and had been to London to drum up support for the liberation movement. After leaving Luthuli, Mandela drove the vehicle posing as a chauffeur with Williams the passenger. Approximately 5 kilometres outside of Howick, on a lonely country road, the vehicle was stopped by a police block as a result of a tip off to the police (it has been suggested that the tip came from the CIA). Mandela was arrested, tried for treason and imprisoned for 27 years. Mandela referred to his arrest and incarceration as his “long walk to freedom”. Amazingly, instead of becoming bitter, he sought a reconciliation between the races for the good of the country and all its inhabitants, black, white and all colours.
The site where Mandela was arrested became known as the Mandela Capture Site, its significance being marked by a small bricked area and a plaque.
On 4 August 2012, on the 50th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s arrest, a sculpture was unveiled and a new visitor centre opened by South African President Jacob Zuma.
The sculpture, by artist Marco Cianfanelli, consists of 50 steel poles of varying heights, one for each year since Nelson Mandela’s arrest.
President Jacob Zuma at the sculpture`
From a distance, the steel poles look like a random collection but from the sculpture they merge to form an image of Mandela’s face. The poles also portray the idea of many singles making a whole.
Some other Nelson Mandela sculptures and memorials have created controversy:
In December 2013 the world's largest statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled in the South African capital Pretoria. The bronze monument was dedicated a day after the former president was buried in his ancestral village of Qunu, following 10 days of mourning. The nine-metre statue stands on the lawn of the government headquarters where Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first black president in 1994.
It was later discovered that the sculptors hid a tiny bronze rabbit in the ear of the statue as a trademark signature since they were not allowed to engrave their signatures on the work in a traditional manner. The rabbit also represents the speed at which the sculpture had to be created as "rabbit" in the Afrikaans language is "haas", which also means haste.
The South African government ordered sculptors to remove the rabbit to "restore dignity back to the statue.” A government spokesman also stated that “We don't think it's appropriate, because Nelson Mandela never had a rabbit in his ear."
A memorial to Nelson Mandela unveiled in November 2014 – a giant pair of sunglasses by artist Michael Elion – also caused controversy.
According to Elion, the sculpture "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." Elion has also stated that the sunglasses' clear shades "symbolise the invisible barriers and prejudices that exist in our perceptions and shape the way we view the world." Everyone else has queried what the sunglasses have to do with Nelson Mandela. It has also been criticised as being disrespectful to Nelson Mandela whose eyesight was damaged by sun and wind during his imprisonment.
The more cynical have drawn attention to the fact that the sunglasses depicted are Ray-Ban Wayfarers and that Ray-Ban was a co-sponsor of the sculpture.