Nelson Mandela Capture Site – Howick, South Africa - Atlas Obscura

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Nelson Mandela Capture Site

A mesmerizing sculpture marks the site where the activist was arrested after evading capture for 17 months. 


On August 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela was driving along a nondescript road, pretending to be a chauffeur for Cecil Williams, a communist activist. The police, having been tipped off that Mandela might be passing through, stopped the car. They arrested Mandela, who had spent 17 months evading capture.

Today, a visitor center and a shape-shifting sculpture mark the site of Mandela’s arrest. The museum inside the center tells Mandela’s life story, with a focus on the time around his arrest and his subsequent 27 years in jail. The information presents his story in a thoughtful, creative way.

Release, the sculpture outside the visitor center, is just as compelling as the material contained inside. It’s made of 50 steel columns and was installed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s arrest. The work was created by Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose.

The sculpture is a far more eye-catching display than the old marker, a plaque set into the side of the wall along the road. When viewed from the right angle, the poles take the shape of Mandela’s face. Change your position, and his image disappears, leaving behind only a forest of rigid steel.

Know Before You Go

The sculpture is based on the R50, close by to the N3 and Howick/Pietermaritzburg. Opening times as of summer 2018 are Monday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is an entry fee. Tours of the site can be arranged online.

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