‘The Shadow Boxer’ at Chancellor House – Johannesburg, South Africa - Atlas Obscura

Johannesburg, South Africa

‘The Shadow Boxer’ at Chancellor House

A large-scale steel sculpture entitled 'The Shadow Boxer' pays tribute to Nelson Mandela. 

Johannesburg-born artist Marco Cianfanelli’s ‘The Shadow Boxer’ honors Nelson Mandela with a monumental sculpture portraying the late South African president as a young boxer.

Commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency in partnership with the City of Johannesburg, this public artwork towers in front of the historic Chancellor House, where Mandela operated the first black law firm in defense of convicted ‘criminals’ who defied Apartheid law.

Together with anti-Apartheid revolutionary Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela worked from Chancellor House to liberate black citizens accused of disobeying oppressive South African laws in the 1950s. Both men would soon find themselves on trial for high treason in 1956; Tambo fled the country with his family in 1958, and Mandela, though acquitted of the charge, left Chancellor House in 1960 to pursue a career in politics.

In Mandela’s absence, Chancellor House fell to ruin until the Johannesburg Development Agency took over the building in 2010 with an architect who specializes in historic landmarks at the helm.

With the help of some old photographs, Chancellor House was restored and converted into a museum, where archival materials and a timeline of Mandela and Tambo’s pivotal work against Apartheid can be seen in the windows. On view is a photograph of a young Mandela sparring with boxing champion Jerry Moloi in 1952, which directly influenced Cianfanelli’s neighboring Shadow Boxer outside.

Know Before You Go

Chancellor House is located on the corner of Fox and Gerard Sekoto Streets in Ferreirasdorp, Johannesburg. The outdoor museum can be accessed 24/7, but call +27 (0)11 678 3905 in advance to book a tour of Chancellor House.

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