The statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled in Parliament Square following a seven year campaign led by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London.

The idea of placing a statue to honour Nelson Mandela in a prominent place in London was initiated by Donald Woods, the journalist and anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, who died in 2001. Donald Woods chose Ian Walters to undertake the work, because of his sculpture of Mandela on the South Bank and his links with the anti-apartheid movement. Walters began the clay bust in 2001 when he travelled to Mandela’s home in South Africa, where the statesman sat for him for a total of nine hours. Walters completed the clay model of the statue just before his death in 2006 and chose Nigel Boonham to supervise the completion of the statue, which is currently being cast in bronze at a foundry.

The prominent position of the nine foot bronze statue, facing the Houses of Parliament, will honour Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest fighters for freedom in the 20th century. It will also be a permanent statement of London’s abhorrence of Apartheid and racism. The unveiling will evoke a remark made by Nelson Mandela.

Tuesday 21 June 2011 11:32

Nelson Mandela symbolises everything noble in the human spirit

‘Oliver (Tambo) and I saw the sights of the city that had once commanded nearly two-thirds of the globe. Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament. When I gloried in the beauty of these buildings, I was ambivalent about what they represented. When we saw the statue of General Smuts near Westminster Abbey, Oliver and I joked that perhaps someday there would be a statue of us in its stead.’ (Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela’).

According to the Mandela Statue Fund, it is planned that Mandela will be present at the unveiling of the statue in Parliament Square. Lord Attenborough will be conducting proceedings in a public event that will mark a great statesman and inspirational figure of dignity, humility, courage, leadership and forgiveness. The statue is cast in bronze and is nine foot tall. It will be placed on a low, wide platform, in keeping with the sculptor, Ian Walters’, vision of inclusiveness and interaction by all those who wish to view, be photographed with, and relate to the image of Nelson Mandela.

The unveiling ceremony will be attended by the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and members of the Mandela Statue Fund, including actor and director Sir Richard Attenborough and Wendy Woods, widow of anti-apartheid campaigner Donald Woods, widow of anti-apartheid campaigner Donald Woods, who conceived the idea of placing a statue of Mandela in central London.

The Mayor said: ‘Nelson Mandela symbolises everything noble in the human spirit. He stood firm against one of the most ghastly forms of racism ever devised through decades of isolation and imprisonment. I hope that in honouring Nelson Mandela in this way Londoners today can make clear their commitment to uproot every form of racism from this planet.’

Parliament Square

Parliament Square was laid out in 1868 in order to open up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals. A substantial amount of property had to be cleared from the site. The architect responsible was Sir Charles Barry. Its original features included the Buxton Memorial Fountain, which was removed in 1940 and placed in its present position in nearby Victoria Tower Gardens in 1957. In 1950 the square was redesigned by George Grey Wornum. The central garden of the Square was transferred from the Parliamentary estate to the control of the Greater London Authority by the Greater London Authority Act of 1999. It has responsibility to light, cleanse, water, pave, and repair the garden, and has powers to make bylaws for the garden.

The east side of the Square, lying opposite one of the key entrances to the Palace of Westminster, has historically been a common site of protest against government action or inaction. On May Day 2000 the square was transformed into a giant allotment by a Reclaim the Street guerrilla gardening action. Most recently, Brian Haw staged a continual protest there for several years, campaigning against British and American action in Iraq. Starting on 2 June 2001, Haw only left his post once, on 10 May 2004 – and then because he had been arrested on the charge of failing to leave the area during a security alert, and returned the following day when he was released. The disruption that Haw’s protest is alleged to have caused led Parliament to insert a clause into the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 making it illegal to have protests in Parliament Square (or, indeed, in a large area reaching roughly a kilometre in all directions) without first seeking the permission of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

As well as sparking a great deal of protest from various groups on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Act was initially unsuccessful in accomplishing its goals: Brian Haw was held to be exempt from needing authorisation in a High Court ruling, as his protest had started before the Act came into effect (though any new protests would be covered); Haw remained in Parliament Square. Later, the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, forcing Haw to apply for police authorisation to continue his protest.

To commemorate New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi Day, as Big Ben strokes 4 p.m. on the Saturday closest to the 6th February, the annual expat-kiwi Circle Line pub crawl culminates in an epic 5,000+ strong mass haka (Maori war dance) in Parliament Square.

Location of Parliament Square

Other buildings looking upon the Square include Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s, Westminster, the Middlesex Guildhall (to become the seat of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), 100 Parliament Street serving HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs, and Portcullis House.

Roads coming off the Square are St. Margaret Street (becoming Abingdon Street and then Millbank), Broad Sanctuary (becoming Victoria Street), Great George Street (which becomes Birdcage Walk), Parliament Street (becoming Whitehall), and Bridge Street (becoming Westminster Bridge).

Statues in and around the Square are mostly of well-known statesmen, and include ones of Winston Churchill (on the north-eastern edge of the green and turned east, overlooking Parliament). Churchill was a British politician and served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955). A statue of Abraham Lincoln is also present in front of Middlesex Guildhall. He was the 16th President of the United States (from 4 March 1861 to 15 April 1865). He spoke against slavery. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. A statue of Robert Peel can be found on the south-western edge of the green. He twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835 and from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846. Lord Palmerston’s statue is situated on the north-western edge of the green. He served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century. He was in government office almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865. Former South African and British statesman, military leader and philosopher Jan Christian Smuts’s statue can be found on northern edge of the green. He served as the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. Other statues available include those of William Stanley (6th Earl of Derby, who was an English nobleman), Benjamin Disraeli (first Earl of Beaconsfield, who was a British Conservative statesman and literary figure) and George Canning (who was a British statesman and politician. He served as Foreign Secretary and briefly as Prime Minister). The statue of South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela, will be installed on 29 August 2007. His statue will face the Houses of Parliament.

Nelson Mandela (1918-)

Mandela was born in 1918 into the Madiba tribal clan – part of Thembu people – in the village of Mvezo, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga, he was given his English name, Nelson, by a teacher at his school. His father, a counselor to the Thembu royal family, died when Nelson Mandela was nine, and he was placed in the care of the acting regent of the Thembu people, chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo.

Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1943, first as an activist, then as the founder and president of the ANC Youth League. Eventually, after years in prison, he also served as its president. He married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. They were divorced in 1957 after having three children. Mandela qualified as a lawyer and in 1952 opened a law practice in Johannesburg with his partner, Oliver Tambo. Together, Mandela and Tambo campaigned against apartheid, the system devised by the all-white National Party which oppressed the black majority.

In 1956, Mandela was charged with high treason, along with 155 other activists, but the charges against him were dropped after a four-year trial. Resistance to apartheid grew, mainly against the new Pass laws, which dictated where blacks were allowed to live and work. In 1958, Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, who was later to take a very active role in the campaign to free her husband from prison. Mandela and Winnie were in 1992 after she was convicted on charges of kidnapping and accessory to assault.

The ANC was outlawed in 1960 and Mandela went underground. Tension with the apartheid regime grew, and soared to new heights in 1960 when 69 black people were shot dead by police in the Sharpeville massacre. It was the end of peaceful resistance and Mr Mandela, already national vice-president of the ANC, launched a campaign of sabotage against the country’s economy. He was eventually arrested and charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the government. Conducting his own defence, Mandela used the stand to convey his beliefs about democracy, freedom and equality.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he said.

“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

In the winter of 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison. In the space of 12 months between 1968 and 1969, Mandela’s mother died and his eldest son was killed in a car crash but he was not allowed to attend the funerals. He remained in prison on Robben Island for 18 years before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland in 1982. As Mandela and other ANC leaders languished in prison or lived in exile, South Africa’s black township children helped sustain the resistance. Hundreds were killed and thousands were injured before the schoolchildren’s uprising was crushed.

In 1980, Mr Tambo, who was in exile, launched an international campaign to release Mr Mandela. The world community tightened the sanctions first imposed on South Africa in 1967 against the apartheid regime. The pressure produced results, and in 1990, President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, and Mr Mandela was released from prison. The ANC and the National Party soon began talks about forming a new multi-racial democracy for South Africa. In December 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Five months later, for the first time in South Africa’s history, all races voted in democratic elections and Mandela was elected president. The ANC won 252 of the 400 seats in the national assembly.

Mandela gave up the presidency of the ANC in December 1997 in favour of South Africa’s current president, Thabo Mbeki, his nominated successor. He stepped down as president after the ANC’s landslide victory in the national elections in the summer of 1999, in favour of Mbeki. He married Graca Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, on 18 July 1998, on his 88th birthday.

Ian Walters (1930 – 2006)

Ian Walters, Battersea sculptor, died on 3rd August 2006 at the age of 76. He had been ill for some time with cancer of the liver and, after months of chemotherapy and an operation he died in The Marsden Hospital in Sutton.

Walters was in the news because of his portrait of Nelson Mandela. There was controversy over the placing of the nine foot high, full length statue. Ian preferred the space in front of the National Gallery but Westminster Council refused planning permission resulting in a public inquiry. The result was a site being found in Parliament Square with the House of Commons as a backdrop.

Walters had hoped to design a plinth and to complete the fine details when the Bronze was cast to keep his own hand on the final stage. He finished the sculpture in clay and had it ready to be cast. Walters always worked with his hands, moulding in clay, rather than carving in stone. His was a great artistic skill and he was fully trained at Birmingham College of Art in classical sculpture. He worked mainly in a realistic manner and concentrated on portraits of radical left wing thinkers and activists. In 1982 he made a larger than life portrait bust of Nelson Mandela and it is sited at the Royal Festival Hall. He sculpted a full length figure of Lord Fenner Brockway which is at Red Lion Square. He made smaller portraits of Tony Benn, Harold Wilson, Barbara Castle, Oliver Tambo, Trevor Huddleston and Alf Dubs MP for Battersea. He made an abstract sculpture to commemorate the International Brigade sited at Jubilee Gardens, South Bank and the Wapping Printworkers relief sculpture at John Marshall Hall.

He had an order book for future work and he wanted to see his statue of Sylvia Pankhurst with her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel put in The House of Lords with her sister Emily’s statue. Walters was a radical campaigner against injustice in the world. He joined the Battersea Power Station Community Group at the demonstration at the Power Station on 26 June 2006. He stood with us for 2 hours to protest against the demolition of the chimneys. He said that without the chimneys the Power Station would lose the monumental sculptural quality he so loved. Walters was based in Battersea. For many years he lived in St James’s Grove and was redeveloped out when the Doddington estate was built in 1970. He was rehoused in Battersea High Street by the council. He had enough space for a studio and lived with his family in the house attached. He lived and worked there for the rest of his life.

Nigel Boonham (1953-)

Nigel Boonham is a British figurative sculptor whose early work dates back to 1975. He learnt traditional skills and was trained in the making of large-scale works as an assistant for two years the sculptor Oscar Nemon. While working on his first portrait of Sir Geoffrey Keynes Boonham was introduced to the work of the poet and artist, William Blake. Blake’s free imagination and symbolic language have been an inspiration ever since and have helped Boonham develop on the idea that sculpture, including portraiture, can have inner life and meaning.

Boonham’s reputation has grown steadily. Over the past two decades he has made a series of distinguished portrait bronzes including Lord Runcie (Archbishop of Canterbury), Archbishop Daniel Mannix (Archbishop of Melbourne), Peter Jonas and Joseph Needham. Recently he completed an over life-size bronze of Dame Cicely Saunders OM, pioneer of the hospice movement: the first portrait of a woman in the collection of the Royal College of Physicians. His best-known portrait, of Diana, Princess of Wales was unveiled by the Princess herself at the National Hospital of Neurology, London. Boonham’s three-metre bronze statue of Cardinal Basil Hume, set in a memorial garden designed by the sculptor, was unveiled in May 2002 in Newcastle by Her Majesty The Queen in the year of the Golden Jubilee. Elected president of the Society of Portrait Sculptors in 2004.