Pretoria - For Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, watching Nelson Mandela’s statue being unveiled at the Union Buildings was a moment they will cherish for ever.
They are the sculptors who collaborated to make the gigantic statue of Madiba. They were contracted by Dali Tambo’s company, Koketso Growth, which was appointed to design and craft the statue.
“We couldn’t wait, and seeing it like this makes it worthwhile. It’s amazing,” Prinsloo said on Monday.
The pair and other dignitaries watched keenly as technical glitches in unwrapping the statue almost spoilt the proceedings. They joined in the clapping and cheering when “technicians” managed to remove the large cover, revealing the imposing, much larger-than-life but friendly figure with his hands outstretched.
This pose, Prinsloo said, blended with the Union Buildings amphitheatre while also capturing Mandela’s charisma, benevolence and belief in reconciliation.
“The concept of his face smiling and his outstretched hands show his friendliness and his stature as the father of reconciliation. We wanted to make it an all-embracing (symbol) because Madiba was a true democrat and a peace-loving person who wanted to embrace everyone,” said Prinsloo.
Janse van Vuuren repeatedly nodded in agreement.
“Madiba was also a playful and funny person, and so we brought in that element,” said Prinsloo.
So how did it all begin?
“Dali Tambo approached us in December (last year). But we seriously started doing this sculpture around June, and we finished it in record time,” Prinsloo said.
The initial figure was “upscaled”, reworked by the artists and moulded at Sculpture Casting Services Foundry in Cape Town.
It was cast in 147 pieces at four different foundries before it was assembled in Cape Town last month.
Prinsloo admitted that designing and crafting the statue of a revered global icon wasn’t an easy task.
“We were too focused. It was a very condensed and intense time. But we are happy. The Union Buildings have always been a sign of the old South Africa. I think that, for the first time, we can say we have an all-embracing sculpture.”
Also present at the unveiling on Monday was Gert Opperman, who represented the family of James Barry Munnik Hertzog, the former prime minister whose statue was moved to make way for Mandela’s.
“Mr Hertzog’s grandchildren say they acknowledge that the times are changing and that he lived in a different era. They have high regard for Mandela’s work and great admiration for him,” said Opperman.
“They are also grateful that the statue of Hertzog hasn’t been moved out of the Union Buildings, which shows reconciliation.”