A nine foot (three meter) statue of Nelson Mandela, with his fist raised as it was when he walked out of Victor Verster prison a free man on February 11, 1990, has been unveiled outside South Africa's embassy in Washington, DC on Saturday.
The statue of the South African icon Mandela is a copy of one which currently stands outside the Drakenstein Correctional Facility (formerly Victor Verster Prison) near Cape Town, South Africa, where Madiba spent his final years in prison.
The statue was modeled by Cape Town sculptor Jean Doyle using photos showing Mandela walking triumphantly to freedom after serving 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island and finally at Victor Verster Prison.
The statue faces onto Massachusetts Avenue, a street used by many of Washington's elite when traveling to their offices, and is on a spot where, in the mid-1980's, thousands of American anti-apartheid protesters symbolically surrendered their liberty under the banner of the Free South Africa Movement.
In a fun aside, Ebrahim Rasool, South Africa’s ambassador to the US, pointed out that the new statue stands across the street from one of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who also has his hand over his head, but this time with two fingers raised, representing the V for Victory sign.
Rasool suggested that the two statues are now engaged in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, and as Rasool noted, “rock beats scissors.”
The unveiling was attended by Mandela's daughter Zindzi (who speaks in the video above), ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Anant Singh, producer of the big-screen dramatization of Mandela's autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom" was also there. The film had a very successful debut at the Toronto Film Festival earlier in September.
Senior administration officials and members of Congress represented the US contingency at the event.
Also represented were civil rights leaders, including the four whose symbolic sit-in and arrest at the South African Embassy on November 21, 1984 marked the beginnings of the Free South Africa Movement.
These are named as Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the US Civil Right Commission, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and also her predecessor as DC delegate, Rev Walter Fauntroy.
Department spokesman of the Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation, Clayson Monyela, told the media that the South African Embassy was a historic site of many marches of the Free South Africa Movement in the US. He said that the new statue would stand as a symbol of activism, freedom and democracy.
“The project has received a positive response from US citizens who see it as the completion of the golden triangle of the global civil rights movement, encompassing the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King jr and Nelson Mandela,” Monyela said.
ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete said that the statue, while a tribute to Mandela, also celebrates the role Americans played in the struggle:
"It is the support of the mighty anti-apartheid movement that eventually saw us attain and achieve our freedom and democracy."
"We wouldn’t be free if it wasn’t for your role, and this statue reminds us of the continuing responsibilities we have to support other countries who still fight for freedom and the right to self-determination," she said.
At the base of the statue is a plaque which includes quotes from Mandela's address to a joint session of Congress months after his release in 1990:
“The stand you took established…that here we have friends…fighters against racism who feel hurt because we are hurt, who seek our success because they too seek the victory of democracy over tyranny. I speak…of the millions of people throughout this great land who stood up and engaged the apartheid system in struggle. Let us keep our arms locked together so that we form a solid phalanx against racism…Let us ensure that justice triumphs without delay.”