In London so I visited Parliament Square so that I could take a look at the relatively new statue of Nelson Mandela that is now in pride of place looking across to the Houses of Parliament.
The statue by Ian Walters is made of bronze and is nine feet tall. It stands on a plinth but appears lower than some of the other statues nearby. The idea came from anti- Apartheid activist and South African journalist Donald Woods. His cause was progressed by his wife after his death with the help of Sir Richard Attenborough. The then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was a big supporter of the project. Originally, it was hoped that it could go in Trafalgar Square. This would have been fitting, if only because it would be close to the South African Embassy where there were so many protests during the Apartheid years.
However, it is equally fitting to place it here where democracy in our country should be taken seriously. He is in good company on the square with many other great campaigners here as well. Interestingly, it was the first statue of a black man in Parliament Square. He has since been joined by Gandhi so the square is looking more diverse these days.
On the day I visited I walked from here across the Thames to the Royal Festival Hall passing that other statue of Mandela, also by Ian Walters but with a significant history. It was erected when Mandela was imprisoned and Margaret Thatcher,the Prime Minister of the time, objected to a statue to the great man. Its position near the Festival Hall was the responsibility of the Greater London Council and Ken Livingstone made sure it went on public show.
It is significant that the Parliament Square version was unveiled by the Prime Minister in 2007, Gordon Brown. How times change!