10 Things you didn’t know about the giant Madiba statue

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  1. At 9 metres in height, it stands as the tallest statue of Mandela in the world. The tallest memorial dedicated to Mandela is Marco Cianfanelli’s steel construction near Howick, on the site where Mandela was finally captured, leading to his 27 year incarceration.
  2. The statue is made out of pure bronze, supported by a stainless steel armature inside the statue. The bronze statue on its own weighs 3.5 tons, excluding the additional 800kg added by the armature.
  3. The nature of his pose required some clever engineering to support a vast “wing span” stretching to an impressive 8m from fingertip to fingertip.
  4. It was originally commissioned purely as part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of the South African Union Buildings in Pretoria. But, with the ailing health and eventual passing of former Mandel just before the unveiling, the statue took on a special significance as a final tribute to him, memorialising his life and legacy in front of South Africa’s seat of government.
  5. The statue is specifically positioned in a position of great significance and symbolic value. The place that in so many ways represented the final victory of the struggle, where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. In light of this, the Union Buildings have since been declared a national heritage site by President Jacob Zuma
  6. The Mandela statue now stands in the same place where a figure of former prime minister James Barry Hertzog used to stand. Hertzog was prime minister from 1924-1939. It was decided, following an exhaustive process, that in the spirit of reconciliation the old statue makes way for the symbolic Mandela statue. The decision was by no means an easy one, but was agreed upon by all, including representatives for the Hertzog family. The previous statue has been relocated to a new position within the Union Buildings grounds.
  7. The statue is the work of two of South Africa’s most prominent scultptors, André Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren. These two artists remain actively involved in another enormous sculptural project for the National Heritage Monument.
  8. This project deadline was exceptionally demanding, and sculptors and project team memebers were required to complete the massive statue and install it in record time. Final approval of the project was as late as July 2013, giving the team just four months to work with.
  9. The statue was meticulously cast in 147 separate pieces. After the casting it took a special team of 35 people 3 weeks to construct the giant statue.
  10. The selected pose for the statue is different to other Mandela statues before, a specifically chosen iconic pose of embrace. President Zuma explained at the unveiling of the statue, “You will notice that in all the statues that have been made of Madiba, he is raising his fist and at times stretching it. That derives from the slogan of the ANC. This one is different from many. He is stretching out his hands. He is embracing the whole nation. You shouldn’t say this is not Madiba because we know him with his one (raised) hand.” Many consider the pose to be more than one of embrace, as noted by sculptor Andre Prinsloo, who says, “Mandela is looking down on the people in front of him, blessing them.”

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