Bronze sculptors

The local artists behind the Long March to Freedom statues

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Date 27 February 2020
External Link Long March to Freedom website

As the sun sets behind Table Mountain, the silhouettes of the procession of 100 life-size statues, the Long March to Freedom, cast long shadows.  Moving the exhibition to its new home in Century City, brought the bronzes closer to two local artists who were responsible for a number of these exquisite artworks.


Artists Tania Lee and Cristina Salvoldi, Cape Town residents, and Lungisa Kala who hails from the Eastern Cape, were commissioned to jointly complete the statues of Winnie Mandela and Dr Martin Luther King.  All full-time artists, they had each previously created other bronzes in the procession:


Tania Lee sculpted Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo and Rev Zaccheus Mahabane.

Cristina Salvoldi sculpted Ray Alexander Simons, Bertha Mkhize and Govan Mbeki.

Lungisa Kala sculpted Josiah Gumede.


Lungisa Kala is a young up-and-coming artist and started out as an assistant on the Long March to Freedom project.   Through Tania and Christina’s mentorship, Lungisa developed and honed his skills to a professional level.


All three sculptors are passionate about sharing their skills and during the making of these bronzes they mentored another trainee assistant, Madodana Cita.  


The artists commenced the process by working closely with the Long March To Freedom professional team, collecting as much research and information on the person to be depicted as possible, and decisions were made on the age, pose and clothing. They prepared maquettes, or scale models, which are about 30cm tall.  These were 3D scanned and upscaled to life size and then carved out of high-density foam. This served as an armature for the artist to work on with a plasticine clay to create the final surfaces and exact portraits. The artists worked for about a month on each of the pieces before they were moulded and cast by Sculpture Casing Services, a professional foundry based in Strand, Cape Town.


Working on the life-size figures is physically and mentally challenging, and each detail and measurement is constantly checked, rechecked and adjusted. The Long March To Freedom professional team visited and critiqued the work in progress, often resulting in radical changes. The portrait head of the Martin Luther King figure, for instance, was removed and remade a couple of times to get the size right, and Winnie Mandela had to link to an existing sculpture by another artist of Nelson Mandela, which required careful planning and tweaking. 


Of the Dr Martin Luther King statue, Tania Lee says “We wanted the sculpture to convey Dr Martin Luther King’s absolute determination and persistence in realising his vision despite all adversity. He is depicted walking determinedly, almost marching, looking straight ahead with dogged focus.  His hands show trademark gestures and reflect his great flair as an inspiring orator. He is holding a microphone in his left hand and its cord spirals down towards the floor. The cord is made up of cut out words from one of his well know quotes and the font style is indicative of the 1960s ‘radio’ type: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward


“For Winnie Mandela, we wanted to capture the energy and vibrance of her character. It was decided that she should be depicted holding hands with the sculpture of Nelson Mandela that had previously been sculpted by South African sculptor Barry Jackson. She was unveiled, having been joined to the statue of Mandela, on 14 February 2019.” Says Lee.


The Long March to Freedom bronzes can be see at Century City, opposite entrance 4 of Canal Walk.  They are open from 9:00 to 18:00 and tickets are available through Computicket: Buy tickets here