Joburg's new artwork celebrates struggle 'Colossus' OR Tambo

Executive Mayor Parks Tau and Dali TamboExecutive Mayor Parks Tau and Dali Tambo, son of OR Tambo, stand alongside the 'Colossus', which now forms an integral part of the pedestrian strip leading into the Libary Gardens. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Johannesburg's already impressive collection of outdoor artworks received an impressive addition on Tuesday, 7 June with the unveiling of the OR Tambo "Colossus" artwork celebrating the life of struggle icon Oliver Reginald Tambo.

The artwork commemorates OR Tambo through the words of Nelson MandelaThe artwork commemorates OR Tambo through the opening line of Nelson Mandela's speech at his funeral on 2 May 1993. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)The "Colossus", commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) for the City of Joburg, was officially unveiled at the Library Gardens by Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau.

"OR Tambo was a colossus, a giant in the struggle of the freedom we now enjoy as South Africans and as residents of the City," Mayor Tau said at the unveiling. "Nelson Mandela, speaking at OR Tambo's funeral, said OR Tambo had not died because the ideals for which he sacrificed his life could never die."

The City had taken Mandela's words to heart, the Mayor said, making a commitment in 2013 to erecting a new artwork in the Westgate precinct of the CBD in order to ensure that OR Tambo's ideas continued to be embraced in a liberated South Africa.

"We are proud that indeed we have kept that promise."

Artwork chosen following public competition

The artwork, created by artist Martin Fourie, was chosen by an adjudication panel following an open public competition facilitated by the JDA.

It consists of angled concrete plates in the profile of the continent of Africa on the world map, supported by superior quality face-brick plinths, with a portrait of Oliver Tambo superimposed on the continent of Africa.

Spread across the rest of the globe, in boldly embedded text, is the opening line of Mandela's speech at Tambo's funeral on 2 May 1993:

"A great giant who strode the globe like a colossus has fallen."

Mayor Tau said the new artwork showed that the City was serious about changing its heritage landscape.

"The 'Colossus' is an iconic addition to the City's public art collection that builds an aura of attraction to a place with distinct culture, art, architecture and public space," he said.

In this way we also remember the unsung heroes: Dali Tambo

Also speaking at the unveiling, OR Tambo's son Dali Tambo said: "A nation is defined and viewed not only by the people it produces, but the way it remembers the people it produced.

"These heritage sculptures are important because the time will come when there will be a very few of us who had lived the struggle."

Dali Tambo said a younger generation who never physically saw the likes of Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo and Walter Sisulu will see these sculptures and ask themselves what it was these people did to have statues and artworks created in their honour, and so they would begin the process of learning about their history.

What was important to remember, Dali said, was that it wasn't one person, it wasn't a few, it was many people who fought and sacrificed for the freedom we have today.

"Many of them are unsung, but their sacrifices are symbolised when we honour the heroes."

The JDA, the City's infrastructure development arm, made it central to its 2011-16 Public Art Strategy to bring art into the City's public spaces, and thereby into daily reach of the City's residents, in order to foster Johannesburg's rich culture and history.

The "Colossus" forms part of the JDA's Westgate Precinct artworks programme, which includes the Nelson Mandela "Shadow Boxer" sculpture, the Walter and Albertina Sisulu sculpture and the "Democracy Dialogue" statue.