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On this site, on the 5 August 1962, a stretch of road five kilometers outside Howick, ‘armed apartheid police flagged down a car in which Nelson Mandela was pretending to be the chauffeur. Having succeeded in evading capture by apartheid operatives for 17 months, Mandela had just paid a clandestine visit to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli’s Groutville home’. (1) Nelson Mandela was captured and arrested.

The rest is history and on the site is a temporary exhibition in a shed to tell the story of  Nelson Mandela’s long walk through life and how he
built a nation from within a fragmented and conflicted South Africa, leading her peoples to democracy.

To commemorate Mandela’s life, a sculpture evolved from the collaboration between Johannesburg artist Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose, a renowned South African architect and former anti conscription activist.   It is a stunning concept and the execution is superb. The Capture Site recently won a BASA award in the category of The Arts & Environment. It has also become an iconic piece world wide.

The sculpture, called Release, consists of 50 steel columns between 6 and 9.5 meters, spans thirty meters, and seen from the road, just look like a lot of slender steel uprights. Once on the site, you walk a path towards the sculpture, which represents “the long walk to freedom”. As you approach the uprights, they start to merge visually to create a picture which evolves into Nelson Mandela’s face as a 2 dimensional image, despite the columns of steel not being in such an arrangement.

Walking closer towards and through the sculpture, the portrait image dissolves back into the cluster of 50 individual uprights. You stand looking at these at close range and they convey a sense of brutality and incarceration as well as the gaps between them giving a sense of the possibility of moving out of the encasing bars and release.

Cianfanelli comments on the deliberate structural paradox, that, “this represents the momentum gained in the struggle through the symbolic of Mandela’s capture. The 50 columns represent the 50 years since his capture, but they also suggest the idea of many making the whole; of solidarity. It points to an irony as the political act of Mandela’s incarceration cemented his status as an icon of struggle, which helped ferment the groundswell of resistance, solidarity and uprising, bringing about political change and democracy”.

(1) the Capture Site website.

Marco Cianfanelli                                                   Jeremy Rose



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