Cape Town’s latest attraction is the Long March to Freedom Procession at Century City.
One hundred bronze statues all walking in the same direction, each with a story to tell.
This is our history, de-colonised.
The procession tells the story of the 350 year struggle for democracy. The one hundred life size statues have been placed in chronological order.
At the front of the procession is Nelson & Winnie Mandela, Walter & Albertina Sisulu, and Oliver & Adelaide Tambo. These icons were able to achieve what they did because of the support of every single man and woman behind them.
The story ends in 1994 because the post democracy story is still being written.
The statues are made of bronze as is traditional the world over in honouring a hero, but with a unique South African twist. Not only has colour been added to bring the bronzes to life, the figures are not on pedestals, they are accessible to all. Because you are not looking up at them, it feels like you are walking with them, and their stories becomes real. The research and attention to detail in the clothing styles, military uniforms and accessories is remarkable.
The guides that are available to lead you through the history are incredibly knowledgeable about each hero or heroine, and the local artist who created each statue.
The Long March to Freedom Procession is so much more than a collection of statues. As you walk among them, you start engaging and the history becomes more than dates and events, it becomes about real people.
I chatted to Sarah Haines, Heritage Manager and one of the Directors of the NGO “The National Heritage Project Company”, which owns the procession.
Each and every story is remarkable, says Haines, but when asked if she has a favourite she states “The statue I admire the most is that of Kgosi Kgamanyane Pilane, depicted riding a bull. The skill of this artist is staggering. This man was publicly flogged and humiliated by Paul Kruger, and this sculpture brings Kgamanyane’s story to life”
Sarah says that international visitors are loving this heritage site, and they say it is a very moving and easy to understand overview of 350 years of South Africa’s history.
The Procession aims to educate and inspire, but also to spark robust conversations as the narrative of our history has been de-colonised and the stories are finally being told through the voices of the people of South Africa.
What I found the most moving were the stories of the women. There are 22 women honoured in the procession, their roles no longer being downplayed by the narrators of our history.
The consistent thread through all the stories told here are of land, oppression, and the struggle for freedom. What really stands out is the one thing that never changes, it is South Africa’s superpower, it’s people.
Resilient, brave and inspiring.
About the statues.
Each statue has been created by a South African artist. To date forty sculptors have been commissioned to create the bronzes, five emerging sculptors have been trained and mentored by the NHPC, and eight South African foundries have been used in the manufacturing of the works.
The Long March to Freedom is a national thanks to the South Africans who sacrificed their lives for the democratic nation enjoyed today.
The exhibition is open to the public daily from 09:00 – 18:00.
Special entrance fees from opening until end February 2020:
Children under 12: R50
Enquiries: National Heritage Project Company +27 11 646 5 595