New museum to honour Madiba
The early life of former President Nelson Mandela, his career as an attorney and his rise into
politics through his involvement in the Defiance Campaign against Unjust Laws is a well-documented story that forms part of South Africa’s liberation struggle.
To add to this, monuments have been erected in his hon- our – from the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, a stone’s throw away from where he received primary schooling, to his jail cell at Robben Island near Cape
Town, where he, along with several others, as jailed by the apartheid government for decades. However, the site of his arrest at a roadblock near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal on 5 August 1962 – which set in motion events that led to the famous “Rivonia Trial” in October 1963 – has for years only been marked with a barely visible memorial plague.
On 5 August 2012, a landmark sculpture was erected near the capture site along the R103 in a project spearheaded by Apartheid Museum’s director Christopher Till, in conjunction with the KwaZulu- Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), to mark the 50th anniver- sary of Mandela’s arrest.
The sculpture, which is the work of world-renowned artist Marco Cianfanelli, is made of 50 vertical steel columns that are between eight and 12 metres high that line up to magically recreate an image of Nelson Mandela's face. Cianfanelli was also a member of the design team for Freedom Park in Pretoria.
As the country commemorates the 100th anniversary since the birth of Nelson Mandela, a new museum will open its doors to the members of the public in September near the Nelson Mandela Capture Site to give members of the public a “360-degree view” of Madiba’s long walk – from his capture right through to the 1994 democratic elections.
Till, who is also the founder of the Apartheid Museum in Johan- nesburg, said after convincing the local municipality and CoGTA to first buy the farm adjacent the capture site, he went back to convince them to build an accompanying museum and a visitor’s centre, which is a R65 million project.
“We managed to get money to build that new museum and the museum is currently 98 percent finished. We have also developed an exhibition to go into that space. It will be an interactive audio-visual kind of exhibition. We are hoping to open it in September this year and I have my fingers crossed,” he said. Till, who is also the director of the Gold of Africa Museum in Cape Town and has organised exhibitions on Mandela, Steve Biko, Oliver Tam- bo and the Women’s March, said the sculpture has already become a landmark in the area that now attracts up to 500 visitors a day.
Till said the sculpture – which Cianfanelli named “Release” – was part of the first phase of the project, which is accompanied by a refurbished shed that currently houses a temporary exhibition of Mandela’s long walk to freedom and a pathway where 40 rusted steel plates have been lined up, marking different years of the former President’s long walk to freedom as well as South Africa’s historic events in the struggle since his arrest.
He said the museum will be part of the second phase of the project and will be an “electronic audio- visual experience” for the visitors, who will experience an interactive exhibition.
“It is a little bit of a leap of faith. The site is relatively rural.
“What the Apartheid Museum has developed is a completely immersive experience.
“The idea is that when you go into the main space, you will have a 360-degree film on all the walls. You will be immersed in a film which moves from the initial capture and the car and the landscape right through to the elections and in the middle will be a very large, lightbox table that occupies the entire space, which follows the chapters that we have put together,” he explained.
New partnerships, new phase
Going forward, Till said the mu- seum has partners in the wings and that he was also looking for new partnerships to implement the third phase of the project.
“There is a new master plan which we have just developed which will hopefully take us into phase three [to] introduce a botanical garden and an indig- enous botanical garden on the site. We also want to construct an amphitheatre and put in place a skills development training centre and a craft market where we will begin to engage the local community as well to bring activity and employment and transformation in that site,” he added.
The shed, which currently houses the Mandela exhibition, will be reconfigured into an educational centre for school children. The centre will be an orientation for learners before they go into the main exhibition.
Till said while he has opened Mandela exhibitions in other countries in recent weeks – includ- ing in Canada, Brazil, Ireland and England – the opening of this museum was extra special given the centenary celebrations of the former statesman.
“To be able to hopefully open this project within a centenary year as a new museum and visitor centre, to which the legacy of Nelson Mandela shines, is an exciting thing and specifically after the long genesis that this project has taken… I am excited about it and I see this as an important element of the celebration of Mandela’s legacy,” he added.