Mystery Monument Revealed: Shadow Boxer!

A while back I told you about a mystery monument, covered in a black tarp, in front of Chancellor House in downtown Jozi.

covered statue instagram

The mystery monument in February, just after it was erected. I can’t believe this was three months ago. It took a bit longer than expected for the unveiling to take place, as often happens with official city government ceremonies.

The monument was finally revealed by the mayor of Johannesburg this past Saturday. I went to see it the next afternoon. It’s glorious.

Boxer Chancellor House

“The Shadow Boxer”, by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli. Chancellor House, the former site of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo’s law firm, is in the background.

Mandela Magistrates Court

The Shadow Boxer from the other side. The building behind it is the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.

The sculpture portrays Nelson Mandela as a young amateur boxer, and is based on a famous picture by photographer Bob Gosani. The artist, Marco Cianfanelli, is well known for another Mandela work he created in KwaZulu-Natal, at the site where Mandela was arrested in 1962 before spending 27 years in prison. The Shadow Boxer was commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency in partnership with the City of Joburg.

I spent quite a bit of time walking around the sculpture on Sunday afternoon, examining it from different angles and trying to photograph it. The sculpture is hard to portray in pictures. In photos the sculpture appears to be almost two-dimensional, like a photograph superimposed into a 3D movie. Examined up close, the sculpture has an infinite number of dimensions.

Mandela instagram

Artsy Instagram rendition.

Mandela walking guy

I loved watching the reactions of passersby who hadn’t seen the sculpture before.

Mandela legs

Closeup of the Shadow Boxer’s legs.

Mandela and kid

Quite a few people came to look at the sculpture while I was there, including a family with two children. By the way, the area around Chancellor House has been completely redeveloped over the last couple of years. It’s clean and safe and a great place to visit. The windows of Chancellor House have been turned into an outdoor museum where you can read about Mandela and Tambo’s legacy.

Boxer and boxer

The sculpture had only been unveiled for 24 hours when I was there. I like to think this might have been the first guy to pose this way beneath it. He definitely won’t be the last.

I feel a particular affinity to this sculpture for a couple of reasons. First, I love photography and the sculpture is based on a photograph. The layers of the sculpture capture the way the light hit Mandela in that famous picture.

Also, I’m a boxer. Mandela’s quote about boxing, which is on the plaque next to the sculpture, captures my own feelings about boxing in a lot of ways:

“I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy to both attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match. Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling your opponent, probing his strengths and weaknesses, you are not thinking of his colour or social status.”

Mandela Magistrates Court from below

“A homage to justice, freedom and equality hard won.” (Inscribed at the base of the sculpture.)

This site, at the corner of Fox and Gerard Sekoto Streets, is about to become the most popular tourist destination in downtown Joburg. Go check it out so you can say you were one of the first.

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15 Comments

  • Reply Jeroen May 28, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Cool, so I guessed it right! Really nice statue – and another reason for visitors to wander from the Carlton Center all the way down Main Street.

    • Reply 2summers May 29, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Yes. The CBD is getting nicer and nicer to walk in.

  • Reply losmi666 May 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Reblogged this on fiverrearn.

  • Reply losmi666 May 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Nice statue 😉

  • Reply Tim Isabirye (@Tirye) May 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Magnificent piece of art – great pics too.

  • Reply Patrick O'Leary June 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Who did the steel work. It’s stunning

    • Reply 2summers June 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Hi Patrick, the sculpture is by Marcus Cianfanelli, a well-known sculptor in South Africa. I assume he did the steel work himself.

      • Reply St4ste June 16, 2013 at 10:56 pm

        Steven Roger-Lund and his team at Argoweld did the steel work.

    • Reply Christl June 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      The steelwork was done by Steven Roger-Lund of ArgoWeld cc, who is based in Honeydew on the Westrand. Steven has manufactured a number of sculptures for Marco Cianfanelli.

      • Reply 2summers June 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

        Cool, thanks for letting us know.

  • Reply Kunst op Zondag | Voorbij Nelson Mandela | Sargasso December 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

    […] Johannesburg werd in mei dit jaar van dezelfde kunstenaar het monument “Shadow Boxing” onthuld. Gebaseerd op een foto van een jonge Mandela die boksen als hobby had. Het beeld staat tussen de […]

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