Opportunity of a lifetime to create nine-metre statue of Mandela

2013-12-20 00:00

FOR two Pretoria sculptors, it was seven months of blood, sweat and tears, but the opportunity of a lifetime to create the nine-metre-tall statue of Nelson Mandela unveiled this week.

“The statue was an absolute career high point, because it was such a big statue of a world icon,” one of the pair, André Prinsloo, said this week.

He and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren created the sculpture with the help of a team at Sculpture Casting Services foundry, under the direction of Dali Tambo. The sculpture, unveiled at the Union Buildings on Monday, cost R8,4 million. It contains four tons of bronze, 800 kg of stainless steel, and was cast in 190 parts.

“Mandela was part of our lives for the past seven months and it was an unbelievable experience to be part of such a big project,” said Janse van Vuuren.

Prinsloo said the biggest challenge was the tight deadline — Tambo only approached them last December.

“In April, we started making small models and we got the go-ahead for the final design in May,” said Janse van Vuuren.

“After all the red tape was dealt with, we had less than six months to make a miniature 2,2-metre statue from clay, get approval for all the needed adjustments and finally put the nine-metre statue together out of polyurethane, finish it and then cast it in bronze,” said Prinsloo.

The huge size was another artistic challenge, because they were seeing it from below, which complicated their perspective, said Prinsloo.

“It was the biggest statue I’ve made in 37 years as a sculptor,” he said.

“I was part of a group of people over the past seven months and everyone’s hard work made the project a success,” said Janse van Vuuren.

• Prinsloo and Janse van Vuuren experiment with small sketches of how they want the statue to look.

• They build several 60 cm clay models and make adjustments until they are happy.

• They build a 2,2 m-high clay model that takes six weeks to finish.

• They make a model of the nine-metre statue out of polyurethane: an armature of stainless steel is built to support the statue, the polyurethane foam is packed around the structure and carved into shape. It is then covered in plaster, which forms the mould.

• The statue is cast in wax, and then covered with a ceramic shell.

• The statue is cast in bronze, in pieces that are finally assembled in place.

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