The Long March to Freedom is a monumental procession of 100 life-size bronze statues, the largest exhibition of its kind anywhere in the world. Celebrating heroes of the liberation struggle over a period stretching from the early 1700s to Freedom Day April 1994, the immense collection of bronze sculptures starts out with the leader of the Goringhaikonas, Autshumato, the first political prisoner sent to Robben Island for defying a European power, then winds its way through early Khoi leaders, rebel chiefs, and revered kings like Maqoma, Shaka and Dingaan, before steadfastly stepping into the waters of the more well-known Apartheid era activists like Helen Suzman, Oliver Tambo, and Albert Luthuli, before finally capping the dynamic procession off with an iconic scene of a triumphant Nelson and Winnie Mandela striding forth, jubilant fists raised to the sky.
Originally installed at the Maropeng Visitor Centre in the Cradle of Humankind (Gauteng), in the 2019 this incredibly collection of bronze figures moved down to Cape Town, finding a new home at Century City, where it now proudly stands visible from the N1 as you move between the city and its northern suburbs. The sculptures themselves are true works of art, created by an incredible team of artists and trainees, foundaries, historians and other experts, with names including the likes of Angus Taylor, Barry Jackson, and Zelda Stroud.
There is an incredible amount of history and information to absorb, and indeed, as a South African you should come away both angry at our unjust past, and jubilant at our success as a rainbow nation. There are one or two sculptures that I don’t think should be there (for some inexplicable reason among all the important South African figures of struggle history we have scattering of Internationals like Fidel Castro and Haile Selassie), but outside of those, the exhaustive list of figures is spot on. (The intention is a growing exhibit, and as such, struggle icons who are still alive are not included just yet – just in case you are wondering why a few rather famous faces are missing from the selection!)
A poignant experience to be sure, but as with a visit to Robben Island or any other struggle location for that matter, an important one as a proudly South African citizen to undertake.