In the north-east corner of the city sprawl that is Bloemfontein in South Africa's Orange Free State, there is an unusually flat-topped hill, and on it, midstride with right arm raised aloft in a clenched fist of determination and anticipation of triumph, is frozen the indomitable symbol of Madiba, looking out on the City of Roses.
When we got down from the hill, it was not roses, but thousands of metaphorical fireflies that lit up the vista before the statue of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the remarkable human being who fought South Africa's sordid racial politics of apartheid, who was imprisoned for over 27 years and emerged on the other side undiminished and with a greater will to build the nation that he had so struggled for, a vision that took him to the presidency of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
The bronze statue was created by sculptor Kobus Hattingh and unveiled on December 13, 2012, and since Madiba, as Mandela was affectionately called after his clan name, has been frozen over the wide expanse of Bloemfontein in a state of movement. And that is perhaps the sculptor's great triumph -- he captured Mandela's movement, the revolutionary spirit in a form that is by its nature static.
The eight-metre tall Mandela statue has the left leg forward and the weight of the right foot seemingly on its toes, as if Madiba will at any moment take the next step. And before him is an ever-changing palette of colours. The bright sun setting to his right casts the shadow of his outstretched right arm across his smiling, squinting face, as if even in a moment of smiling repose he is aware of the distance of his destination. Then, when night falls, the setting sun seemingly setting fire to the wide African horizon, the thousands of Bloemfontein lights fight for primacy with the twinkling stars of the clear African sky.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb,” is the inscription on a plaque at his feet from Mandela's autobiography 'A long Walk to Freedom', words of inspiration for anyone fighting injustice.