On 5 August 1962, an otherwise ordinary piece of road along the R103, roughly three kilometres outside Howick in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, suddenly took on profound consequence. Armed apartheid police flagged down an Austin Westminster, which at the time, Nelson Mandela was driving, pretending to be a chauffeur.
Returning from a clandestine visit to African National Congress (ANC) president Chief Albert Luthuli’s Groutville home to report back on his African odyssey, and to request support in calling for an armed struggle, Mandela, at this unassuming spot, was finally captured, and proceeded to disappear from public view for the next 27 years.
This site is now home to the newly unveiled Nelson Mandela Capture Site Visitors Centre and Museum, complemented by a ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ through the landscaped garden to view the iconic sculpture by artist Marco Cianfanelli, entitled Release. This powerful sculpture comprises 50 steel column constructions – each between 6.5 and 9.5 metres tall, which dramatically upon looking west, at 35 metres suddenly comes into focus as a portrait of Nelson Mandela’s face.
Funded by the KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department and managed by the Apartheid Museum, the Nelson Mandela Capture Site Visitor Centre and Museum first opened to the public in December 2019.
The building’s equally imposing exterior is part of the project initiated by architects, Mashabane Rose and Associates, and sets the tone for visitors to experience the life of Nelson Madiba and the profound consequences of his capture. The design brief called for a statement of the history and poignancy of this site needing to make use of unconventional materials to create a structure that captures the attention and can withstand the test of time.
Owing to its 99.9% composition of pure zinc, with small traces of copper and titanium, Rheinzink was the material of choice to enveloped and clad the building’s exterior and safely house its contents, anchoring the strength and courage that this site represents.
The museum features a new immersive exhibition, which includes a 360-surround film, a dazzling display of historical artefacts and photographs, as well as a replica of the Austin Westminster that Nelson Mandela was driving. The entire precinct is being landscaped and includes a terraced amphitheater and an experiential indigenous garden, food market and training kitchen.
The result is a destination, which has become the catalyst for international and local tourism, increasing visitors and income to the area. The centre has now reopened following the Covid-19 imposed Lockdown and visitors can once again explore the Nelson Mandela Capture site in person of virtually.
CLICK HERE FOR VIRTUAL TOUR