A sum of parts. Building a monument to Mandela

 
 
 

South Africa’s history was irrevocably altered in 1962. Along an isolated road in KwaZulu-Natal, Nelson Mandela was arrested for attempting to overthrow the apartheid government. After being placed on trial and imprisoned, he wasn’t seen again for 27 years. An inconspicuous plaque at the capture site was the only commemoration of that fateful day. For Christopher Till, it wasn’t enough. So he knocked it down, and set up a monument.

Leading a team that included artist Marco Cianfanelli, Till oversaw the creation of a towering sculpture that remembers the man who steered our country to democracy. From afar, the artwork looks like 50 jagged steel columns breaking through the earth. At the correct angle, Mandela’s face is unmistakable. Walking down the path towards the structure, the fragments progressively merge to form an impressive likeness. “It’s a representation of South Africans coming together as one nation,” Till says. The monument was unveiled in 2012, marking 50 years since Madiba’s capture. The journey to the metal figure is reminiscent of Mandela’s own long walk to freedom, and how individuals had to unite in solidarity to enact change.

As the founding and current director of the Apartheid Museum, Till maintains that art plays a key part in understanding our history. He’s been instrumental in formulating South Africa’s cultural scene for decades. “I believe art has a critical role in honouring our past and forming our future,” he says. Visitors to the capture site, near the Midmar Nature Reserve, can now truly grasp the magnitude of that day, and Mandela’s spirit. “This place inspires me not only as a museum director, but as a South African,” Till says. “I’m filled with pride when I stand here and remember one of our greatest leaders.”