Explore a trail of art honouring the 67 years Madiba dedicated to South Africa
Follow the red brick road. It’s the start of public art trail meandering through Port Elizabeth’s bustling city centre. Created in 2011, Route 67 honours the time Nelson Mandela dedicated to serving South Africa – 67 years in total. To represent different periods in the former president’s life, local artists created 67 installations. Colourful mosaics, poems, sculptures, and silhouettes make up this medley of national pride.
The route begins at the Campanile Memorial, a tower on Strand Street offering striking views of the city. Wayfinding markers, in the form of placards with quotes from Madiba, guide this walk down memory lane. The history of the Eastern Cape features on Mkhonto Gwazala’s Campanile Frieze, carved from granite. Next to it, a poem by Lelethu Mahambehlala celebrates indigenous culture on the Wall of Texts. Floor bricks lay out the values of the country in numerous national languages. Titled Walk of Words, this piece sets the atmosphere for the road ahead.
At Vuyisile Mini Square, named after the first ANC member to be executed by the apartheid government, a marble statue of Queen Victoria has stood since 1903. The NMMU Sculpture Collective used the figure to form Conversations with the Queen, a piece of art that features the figures of five apartheid activists who worked to dismantle the effects of colonisation. Trailing along the staircase at the square, the 76 Youth installation honours the students of the Soweto Uprising. While these features are important reminders of our nation’s past, the ingenuity with which they’re created proves how far South Africans have come.
The flurry of art continues at the Donkin Reserve. Tall, sail-shaped benches created by Anthony Coke billow in homage to Port Elizabeth’s nickname – the Windy City. A breeze ruffles the wings of Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta’s Fish-Bird monument and dashes through the metal pipes of River Memory. Artist Duncan Stewart built the elevated structure to indicate the movement and sound of the stream that once flowed here. With vivid geometric designs, the 470-metre Piazza Mosaic sprawls out between the Pyramid monument and the largest South African flag in the country. Beside it, laser-cut figures depict Madiba leading a voting line on the day our democracy was born.
In South Africa’s tourism landscape, Port Elizabeth is often overlooked as a destination. Yet this art-lined oasis is worth encountering. Every corner is filled with vibrant and poignant pieces which expand on our journey as a nation, aptly culminating at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum. In the province of Madiba’s birth, Route 67 is an open and interactive experience that will celebrate his memory for generations to come.