Free Nelson Mandela

David Hammons
Granite, forged iron, barbed wire, paint

This fan shaped display of bars with barbed wires symbolizes a jail cell. The boulder in front bears the inscription “Free Nelson Mandela,” although it’s official title is “Nelson Mandela Must Be Free to Lead His People and South Africa to Peace and Prosperity.” This piece, originally created as a political statement demanding the liberation of the famous South African activist, includes a functional gate that was initially padlocked shut during Mandela’s imprisonment. After Mandela’s release in 1990, the padlock was unlocked and the gate has remained in an open position ever since. Following the opening of that gate, three bars to the right of the gate were painted, respectively, green, black, and yellow, the colors of the South African flag. At the time of construction, artist David Hammons stated, “I like using everyday materials so that people will never see them in the same way again. Found objects have their own presence. I don’t control them at all. Using them, you can come up with things that are outside your own spirit.” He chose the rock for its associations. “’When you’re in prison, you’re ‘on the rock,” he explained. It is also, in a way, an homage to Atlanta’s natural beauty.”

David Hammons’ assemblages, installations, and performances address issues relevant to African-American and African culture, identity, and experience. Using unconventional, often found materials, he has created projects that include pyramids of human hair collected from the floors of Harlem barbershops and snowballs that he sells on the sidewalk. An artist who came of age during the height of the civil rights and black nationalist movements, he states, “I feel it my moral obligation as a black artist to try to graphically document what I feel socially.” -Jennifer Roberts, MOMA

Piedmont Park
Charles Allen Dr. NE and 10th St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30309