I wrote this a few months ago but shared it on my travel blog. I am grateful for those moments in the otherwise hustle and bustle of life to have spent in thought and gratitude to this great man. Hamba Kakuhle Tata…
In the heart of the Midlands on a peaceful stretch of road a few kilometres past Piggly Wiggly Country Village in the direction of Midmar Dam, a signboard catches my eye: Nelson Mandela Capture Site. At this significant time in Madiba’s life, I am drawn to stop and spend what I think will be a moment at the site. The actual site is on the right hand side of the road, with a vast stretch of beautiful landscape as its view. To the left I see another sign post: Nelson Mandela Capture Site Apartheid Museum, and as it seems the only place I can stop and park, this is the direction I go.
All along the driveway are more posts with his visage, each with one of many titles assigned to him: Leader. Comrade. Negotiator. Prisoner. Statesman. It is a reminder that no man fits snuggly in one box – there are many aspects to who we are and we all have opportunity to change and improve our circumstances.
Besides the museum, there is also the Truth Café and Truth Store, housing books and Madiba memorabilia but what seems to tug at me is a pathway, leading to I’m not sure what at this stage, but soon see a sign: Sculpture. Following the paved path and looking at the magnificent backdrop I am saddened to think that a place of such beauty was the point of Mandela’s capture, the beginning of his 27 years imprisonment, and I am reminded by the slow walk towards the sculpture of his “long walk to freedom”.
Towards the end of the path the ‘sculpture’ rises up. From the road, and the lane leading to the parking area, all that is seen are high towering beams, which I hadn’t really paid attention to before. These seemingly formless metal structures protruding from the ground and reaching skyward don’t seem to resemble anything, but approaching from towards the end of the path, they transform into a giant image of Madiba’s face – sculpted from strategically placed metal structures that individually are unrecognisable as anything at all. Looking at these constructions individually, I am reminded of strong prison bars (although these are etched and flat) towering strong and indestructible above us.
Behind all of this rests a plaque: “This sculpture commemorates the arrest of Nelson Mandela on this road in 1962. The arrest set in motion his trial and subsequent 27 year incarceration and long walk to freedom.” The plaque is surrounded by bouquets of flowers and notes from visitors with “We love you Madiba” and “Get well soon” wishes held down by stones. It seems many who love him and are concerned with his current health have come to pay tribute to this remarkable man who is loved by so many.
I feel fortunate that at this poignant time in South Africa, as we face losing a man who has been an icon of forgiveness and compassion, that I was brought to this place to bring my attention to what he has been to South Africa and the struggles and suffering he endured and was able to leave behind him as he embraced the nation he was to lead. In his words: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”