As South Africa questions the place that historical statues should have in this, our fledgling democracy, the Department of Arts and Culture is working on a national heritage project that will perhaps bring some sense of peace and progress in this ongoing debate, which seems to have no right answer. The National Heritage Monument in the Groenkloof Nature Reserve, Pretoria, was unveiled towards the end of last year, with fifty-five life sized bronzes standing proudly next to each other. In the words of Dali Tambo, the brains behind the project, the monument depicts the struggle veterans “passing the freedom baton from one leader to the other”. The park includes heroes and heroines from all different cultural backgrounds and walks of life, including Black Consciousness Movement leader, Steve Biko, former ANC presidents, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, Bishop John Colenso, the first Anglican bishop of Natal, and Zulu chiefs, Bambatha kaMancinza and Dingane ka Senzangakhon.
The park, which is funded in part by the National Lottery Foundation, will ultimately be home to about 500 statues, when fully completed, and promises to be a major tourist attraction, as well as a massive educational centre telling the story of South Africa and its long walk to freedom.
Photograph courtesy of iol.co.za