I took this photo back in January, on my first trip to London. While I was snapping pictures right and left, I had to make sure that I captured digitally this statue of Nelson Mandela. There were already constant news reports that the former South African leader was seriously ailing (indeed, the wonder is that he lasted until his death Thursday).
I took several other photographs in Parliament Square that late Friday afternoon, including ones posted to this blog about Winston Churchill and Sir Robert Peel. But this nine-foot bronze statue of Mandela by sculptor Ian Walters was special. He is not set as high as the other figures in the square, and in his characteristic floral shirt he looks as if he shares more of the air of the common man than anyone else here. Moreover, unlike the others here (including the lone American, Abraham Lincoln), Mandela was the only figure alive for his statue’s unveiling, having lived long enough to pass from heated controversy to something approaching secular canonization.
Mandela shares one other thing with Lincoln. Both were, in essence, liberators—men responsible, through political guile, persistence, and moral passion, an entire class of human beings from the worst kind of legal shackles and inhumanity. They were, in the truest sense, fathers of their reborn nations.
When the statue was unveiled six years ago, Mandela noted: “Though this statue is of one man, it should in actual fact symbolize all of those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country."