A little while ago I found myself in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands for a wedding. With not much to do other than roam the area ahead of the big celebration I was attending, I decided to pop past the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. I’d only ever seen pictures of the incredible sculpture at the site and was sure there was more than just the illusion of Mandela’s face created by it. Luckily, I was right!
Coming around the corner in the car bypassing the signs to ‘Nelson Mandela Capture Site’, the sculpture seemed to pop out of nowhere. It also seemed to make absolutely no sense from the road because you need to be in a very specific position to see the outline of Mandela’s face, which is not from the road naturally.
The Nelson Mandela Capture Site is well kept and has a small gift shop, a cafe and a temporary exhibition at its entrance. Ignore all of these and go straight to the sculpture first, and I’ll explain why a bit later on in the post.
About the sculpture
The actual sculpture is made from large metal rods, seemingly placed at random with notches and angles that from afar, form the the silhouette of Mandela’s face. Make sure to get the best shot you can from the top of the hill, because as you start getting closer, the illusion no longer appears. Up close and standing between the rods, you can fully appreciate the work and energy that was put into this sculpture by artists Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose. This excerpt from the official website explains the process in which it was developed:
The sculpture, a collaboration between artist Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose, significantly comprises 50 steel column constructions – each between 6.5 and 9.5 metres tall – set into the Midlands landscape. The approach to the site, which has been designed by Mashabane Rose Associates, leads one down a path towards the sculpture where, at a distance of 35 meters, a portrait of Nelson Mandela, looking west, comes into focus. The 50 linear vertical units, line up to create the illusion of a flat image.
The walk to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site
The walk from the entrance down the hill is about 500m, not long at all, but comfortable shoes and a hat should be remembered if you plan to spend a little bit of time here. The walk is meant to represent Mandela’s own Long Walk to Freedom, but I didn’t see any signage to indicate this and only saw it on the website afterwards. There are also benches along the way to sit and enjoy the view from. It can get quite hot and humid in the Midlands, so the cool exhibition space is great after the walk.
The temporary exhibition is a little confusing and it really is clear it was designed for another space as its set up in an old farm building. Nonetheless, it has a great deal of interesting information and is worth spending some time perusing through. Sadly, it’s not interactive in any way at this point and the children that were at the site seemed very bored inside (obviously they preferred running amongst the sculpture’s pillars much more). The cafe adjacent to the exhibition is really pretty and open, although I never ate anything, the menu looked pretty good and it’s a nice spot to enjoy a cup of coffee at afterwards. The gift shop is a great idea, but there wasn’t much variety in what it offered and the shelves were a little empty, this may have changed since my visit though.
I would go to the site more for the sculpture than the exhibition at this point as it is the main draw card. Hopefully next time I visit there will be a better established exhibition space to enjoy.
Side note: I went back in April 2016 and while there is progress in constructing a more formal museum at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in the form of a massive half-built shell of a building, it’s pretty much the same two years later.
For more information one the Capture Site, check out their website here.