of Nelson Mandela is a large bronze
sculpture of the former President
of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist Nelson
Mandela, located in Nelson
Mandela Square in Johannesburg.
You might be wondering
what is Mandela doing in this project beside all the other figures.
There are many reasons to celebrate Nelson Mandela, no question about
that. But how much thought, how much deliberation went into the
choice of design and medium? Who decided and who made it all
possible? Was any attempt made to solicit public opinion in such
choices? How much say did the artists get in crucial decision-making?
In general, what is the cultural and political baggage that comes
with representing a human in naturalistic style, in a
old-totalitarian-fashion? What are the implications for identities
and for collective memory? In general, what is the message conveyed
by placing the statue in this particular location?
The same aesthetics of
statues once commissioned by totalitarian regimes are still being
used, for example, by "new independent countries", to
commemorate revolutions, or peoples that fought against colonialism
and racism, or in memorials to genocides. In the African continent
many countries order their statues from North Korea company Mansudae
Overseas Project - statues and monuments that look nationalistic and
authoritarian as the nations that once colonized them. This happens
due to the lack of engagement that governors of those countries have
with their citizens in terms of decision making on how to represent
the community collective memory and their real hero's. What kind of
aesthetics, iconography or symbology are best suitable to represent
the country, its heroes and its own history and struggles? Maybe
bronze is not suitable anymore. Maybe the figurative is
over-symbolic. Maybe James E. Young was right when he brought ideas
of counter monuments and negative aesthetics in which citizens are an
active part of the memorial and the memorial culture.