Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ATLANTA, GA – A few weeks back as a media frenzy predicted Nelson Mandela’s impending death, I stumbled upon Free Nelson Mandela in Piedmont Park. I had no idea it existed. But it’s certainly hard to miss because the seven ton sculpture has a set of imposing iron prison bars and padlock gate rising up 12 feet from a large granite rock with the carved words “Free Nelson Mandela”. The top of the prison bars are covered with barbed wire. The work was created by famed artist David Hammon in 1987 with the assistance of faculty and students at Georgia State University in the University’s sculpture studio. The original purpose of the piece was to make a statement demanding Mandela’s freedom from prison to lead his people through Apartheid’s end. When Mandela was freed in 1990, the sculpture’s padlock was opened and three of the prison bars painted -- one green, one black, and one yellow -- representing the South African flag. With the ailing 95 year-old Mandela, hospitalized since June, perhaps the sculpture now takes on a new meaning: “Get well”. The most recent media reports indicate that Mandela’s condition is improving. So let’s hope he can be released from the hospital and go home soon. Be well Nelson Mandela.
Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an associate professor in Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.