Mandela on the Mountain is the title of an ambitious project to commemorate the iconic South African leader’s 95th birthday – in the style of the giant US president sculptures of Mount Rushmore.
Dutch-based company WHIM is behind the scheme for the educational and heritage centre celebrating the country’s former president and his battle against apartheid – with the building itself fashioned in the likeness of Mandela’s head.
Location for the giant edifice has yet to be decided – but a location near Table Mountain in District Six, Cape Town, has been initially chosen.
This was home to a racially mixed community, before it was forcibly demolished in 1966.
Quoting Mandela, WHIM, based in Rotterdam, say: “Everything is impossible till it’s done”.
The company’s Aart Bak explained the origin of the project: “Three years ago I was in South Africa for the World Cup and I was taking a tour of Cape Town on a double-decker bus.
“I sat down on a rock, looked out across the city and the mountain, as I took in the view.
“It was then that I had the idea for something worthy of commemoration of the life and achievements of one of the most important figures of our time – based on Mount Rushmore in the USA (which has the likenesses of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt carved into it).”
The initial concept is for a building 30m wide and 60m tall on the side of a mountain overlooking the city and coast – including Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned.
It would include exhibitions of his life and work, a restaurant, viewing gallery and conference space.
Natural resources, such as solar panels, would be harnessed for heat and light with enough energy being produced to power local neighbourhoods.
Bak has been talking to architects and engineers about how to turn his dream into a real-life structure.
“I have been throwing the idea around and I spoke to a young architect named Ramon Knoester and he was one of the first to say ‘I want to bring my energy to it’. Now I am looking for more backers.
“There have been a lot of voices raised in support for the idea in South Africa – but we have encountered opposition from some quarters as well, from the more conservative elements which still exist in the country.”