City of Ghent in Belguim to celebrate Nelson Mandela

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The city of Ghent in Belgium is celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela. City authorities are planning to erect a monument of the former South African President.

Three South African artists are on the shortlist to create the artwork.

The monument of  Mandela will be erected in one of three locations next to the brand new city library. It will either be on the bend of the river, a bridge facing the library or on a green overlooking the water.

Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent says the city has a number of historical links with South Africa.

“We have done a lot of initiatives in the field of anti-apartheid activities. As the mayor, and the other people of the city of Ghent, we are very happy to do a new project around Mandela.”

The project has various organisations including, the South African embassy to Belgium and an African arts organisation called Africalia.

Bjorn Maes, Programme Manager Africalia says: “We’re really hoping that a celebration of this in a contemporary context through art will bring a lot of people together.”

In 2007 a monument of Mandela was opened in Parliament square in London, and the project for the Mandela monument in Ghent isn’t the only South African influence in the city. In 2014 a number of streets, squares and bridges were named after anti-apartheid figures, like the Ablertina Sisulu bridge.

The square which forms the entrance to the library is named after singer, Miriam Makeba.

Along the side of the river they’re building what will be known as the Nelson Mandela promenade, linking the city centre to the university, which prides itself on strong links with South African universities.

Professor Mieke Van Herreweghe, Vice-rector of Ghent University says: “There was not a lot of contact with South Africa in general, but in 1994 already a number of professors started setting up bilateral agreements and we just followed that, because if that grows bottom up, this is what you feel you need to do because people feel it’s important.”

The project hopes to get the monument of Mandela in place by October and is currently fundraising to ensure the highest quality artwork can be installed.