About Mandela's Shadow Boxer Statue

Unveiled at the time that Mandela lay fighting a lung infection in hospital in 2013, the painted mild steel sculpture, known simply as Shadow Boxing, is a 6 metre-high depiction, inspired by a famous photograph by Drum photographer Bob Gosani, of Mandela as a young, amateur boxer.

Did you know? Shadow Boxing was commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency and the City of Johannesburg.

The sculpture at 225 Market Street in Johannesburg, is multi-faceted, made up of layers of painted metal sheets and fascinating to see as it is at once two and three-dimensional. It stands directly in front of the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court and the artist, Cianfanelli, has spoken about the idea of boxing as a metaphor for the legal system.

He is probably referring to Mandela's quote about boxing: "I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match".

Below the statue are further words by Mandela: “In the ring, rank, age, colour, and wealth are irrelevant”. Cianfanelli, famous for his other depiction of Mandela at the capture site in KwaZulu-Natal, added red to the statue as way to emphasise the sculpture and to tie in with the colour used on Chancellor House.

The unusual sculpture is further described by Cianfanelli as a 'pop play on Warhol's gun slinging Elvis Presley'. It also celebrates the life and work of the photographer, Bob Gosani, at the same time.

It is an unusual piece that captures Mandela the boxer, rather than his political figure

Need to Know

WhereMandela's Shadow Boxer Statue, Jeppe Magistates Court, 225 Market Street, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

WhenBest viewed during daylight hours

OvernightStay in Johannesburg Accommodation, Gauteng


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Nelson Mandela

Fascinated with Past President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela? Nelson Mandela is one of the world's most remarkable leaders. Find out more about his past and his impact on South Africa's present and future, and follow in his footsteps with our curated Mandela Route of South Africa.

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