By: Charmaine Blose
Port Elizabeth- All you hear is “take a picture of me chomee!!” then click , click flash as selfies are being taken. The Nelson Mandela University library entrance at South Campus has become a place of selfies for students, staff and visitors thanks to the newly erected bench of Nelson Mandela.
The bench depicts Mandela as a statue sitting with a book in his hand. This stunning piece of art was unveiled on Africa Day, May 25th at the Nelson Mandela University, which then formed part of the university’s centenary celebration.
The bench also forms part of the institution as well as a bigger public art programme that seeks to populate public spaces. The university launched this master piece in honour of the late, great tata uMadiba and his values on education. Following the gazetting and launch of the new Nelson Mandela name, which was a convenience to rethink its make-up and align NMU as a vital African University. A requirement to boost the level of institutional apprehension was recognised. Surprisingly, this public artwork piece has become a favourite place for students to take pictures, including visitors to the university who are there for personal and business related reasons.
The students take turns sitting next to the statue of the late great giant, which almost makes them feel and react as if it is the real person, rather than the statue that it is. Mr Michael Barry of the university’s department of Arts, Culture and Heritage said that the important aspect of visual arts in public spaces on campus was regularly unnoticed and not well understood. “The bias for the visual arts to be viewed as senseless and possibly less important compared to other projects happening at a university’s academic community is a direction that is viewed across different stages of educational systems”, he concluded.
Another public space art which also proved to be popular with students and visitors was the Mandela Shirt, just outside the university’s entrance close to the South Campus auditorium.