A bit of history tucked away in the Midlands
People travelling along the N3 towards the KZN coast unknowingly pass the site of one of the most significant events in South Africa’s history.
Just five minutes off the highway, on the R103 near the Midmar Dam, is a stretch of road much like any other country road in the area. What makes this one special is that it here, early on an August morning in 1962, that Nelson Mandela was arrested, subsequently tried, found guilty and disappeared from public view for the next 27 years.
If you are not a history buff this might not interest you much but today the site is marked by a work of art that will impress even the most cynical.
Created by Marco Cianfanelli and architect Jeremy Rose, the 50 jagged steel columns planted in the Midlands’ landscape appear as nothing more than an abstract shape when viewed from any spot other than the one paving stone directly in front of it.
Visitors walk towards the sculpture along a narrow path which slowly drops below ground level. Set in the path is the stone which marks the viewing point. Magically the 3-D collection of columns assemble into a flat portrait of Nelson Mandela.
Like all good public art, Cianfanelli’s work invites closer inspection. Visitors can walk between the steel columns, some as tall as 9 metres, and marvel at how these sharp, random shapes combine to make up the sensitive portrait viewed from a distance.
On a hot summer’s day, the 200-metre walk to the sculpture can be a challenge – this is intentional as it represents Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
If you are feeling parched there is relief just a few minutes’ drive along the R103 at Piggly Wiggly which has established itself as the centre of the Midlands Meander and invites you to eat, shop and play.
So next time you are hurtling along the N3 near Howick why not slow down and take a detour that is guaranteed to satisfy.