Pain as 'moody' statue misses Mandela Day

18 July 2018 - 16:08
By Boitumelo Kgobotlo
Pitika Ntuli's sculpture with  the 'Rainbow Nation' ensconced on Madiba's lap.
Pitika Ntuli's sculpture with the 'Rainbow Nation' ensconced on Madiba's lap.

One of South Africa's most talented artists and academics, Professor Pitika Ntuli, will probably be the only sad person on Wednesday while the world smiles and rejoices over the 100 year mark since the birth of Nelson Mandela.

Ntuli's heartache comes after a marble sculpture of Mandela that he had been working on for five years was damaged this week while being hoisted into the position where it was supposed to be unveiled.

The big unveiling ceremony was scheduled for Melrose Arch in Johannesburg on Wednesday, but visitors and the media were shocked to be told that the artwork had been taken back to the workshop.

Ntuli said he hoped that it would take about two months to fix the 18 ton, 4.3m-tall monument to honour Madiba.

"Madiba: a Provocation to Reconciliation", was meant to stand tall at the larney shopping complex as part of an exhibition to honour the 100 Year Centenary celebrations of Mandela's birthday.

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Mandela up close and personal
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"I am saddened by what happened. We can't allow anyone at the moment to see the monument before the unveiling," he said.

As for the inspiration behind the artwork, Ntuli said he wanted to depict Mandela for what he truly was.

He said Mandela was a people's person and was particularly fond of spending time with children, hence he was shown embracing children sitting on his lap.

"For 27 years Madiba laboured on Robben Island breaking stone, but he is always depicted in bronze. This monument is carved from Belfast Black Granite (thus linking Madiba to the land).

"Madiba's face has four moods depending on the angle of the viewer: worry, realisation, contemplation and resolution. These moods also symbolise the stages of ill-health and recovery," said Ntuli.

"Most of Madiba's statues depict him as an isolated individual, a role he always rejected, pleading to be understood as part of a team. This work captures him with the 'Rainbow Nation' ensconced on his lap."

Ntuli said he also infused his late ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the piece.

"Dressed in her traditional doek, she is both tenderly caressing him as well as offering her whole being as support.

"In acknowledgment of Madiba's determination and strength of spirit, there is reference to Michaelangelo's 'David', the same David who took on Goliath.

"The work communicates to people across colour and age including children; for example, the rabbit on his shoulder, which is a symbol of vulnerability and strength, is a subject of interest for young people," said Ntuli.