This is a blogpost in dedication to a legend, statesman and genuine freedom fighter. It’s also about Marco Cianfanelli’s amazing Nelson Mandela artworks. But first, some history: on a chilly evening on the 5th of August 1962, outside the small town of Howick in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands in South Africa, a car was pulled over on the main road from Durban to Johannesburg. The occupants of the car were a white man named Cecil Williams, and a chauffeur wearing a white jacket. The chauffeur, unusually, was not in the driver’s seat. The security policeman that pulled the car over asked the chauffeur a few questions, and produced a warrant of arrest. Within a few minutes, the man the media had come to call The Black Pimpernel was in custody, and the news reverberated around the world: Nelson Mandela had been captured. For the next 51 years - 27 of which would be spent in prison - the legend of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela would grow, with his name forever associated with freedom and justice. And over those years, an explosion of artworks would be created in dedication to the man and his legacy. Amongst these are countless thousands of ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ flyers and posters that were generated during the liberation struggle both within South Africa and across the world, but there were also a number of amazing large-scale sculptures created in his honour. Of these, there are two which are arguably amongst the best in the world. Both were created by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli and both are to be found in South Africa. The first, and largest, is the impressive ‘Release’ (above), located across the road from the very spot where the arrest took place. Created using laser-cut steel tubes that feature differing profiles, the work is enormous: it stands 9.48 metres high, is 5.19 metres wide and 20.8 metres long. It’s hard to miss. As you drive along the R103 through the rolling hills of the Midlands and approach the capture site, a large cluster of metal tubes stands high above the surrounding landscape. At first glance, the artwork doesn’t make sense, but then it is anamorphic - to truly appreciate it, one has to approach it from a specific direction, along a walkway. As you get closer to the focus point, the structure comes into its own, and reveals a masterfully created portrait of the man in his later years, as above. It’s a breathtaking piece, and a fitting tribute. Cianfanelli’s other large-scale tribute pays homage to a man in his earlier days, taken from a picture of him boxing. In ‘Long Walk To Freedom’, his fantastic biography, he writes “I was never an outstanding boxer. I was in the heavyweight division, and I had neither enough power to compensate for my lack of speed nor enough speed to make up for my lack of power…”. Using the same anamorphic technique, ‘Shadow Boxing’ comprises of a number of laser-cut steel panels, which, when viewed as a whole, reveal Mr Mandela in a sparring stance. The work was installed between Chancellor House and the Magistrate’s Courts, two buildings where Mandela spent some time in the 1950s, in May this year, and has become a popular photograph spot for passers-by and tourists.
As the world waits with bated breath for the sun to set on a man whose life was spent in service of liberation, it’s worth taking the time to reflect on his legacy. For all those in South Africa, his unwavering dedication to the cause of freedom from oppression is the very reason they now enjoy democracy and equality. And for the rest of the world, he stands tall as a statesman the likes of which are few and far between, and mark the change from a world where the injustices of the past once prevailed to one which offers a better future for all. For his contribution to making the world a better place through humanity, we salute Madiba and thank him for a life lived honestly and the inspiration of his legacy.