By David Chidester
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Additional info for Wild Religion: Tracking the Sacred in South Africa
While the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994 was blessed by a rainbow religious coalition of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu prayers, the inauguration of Thabo Mbeki in 1999 began with an invocation by a representative of African traditional religion before the prayers were heard from the other four religions. Exiled from the city for so long, Mapping the Sacred | 35 African indigenous religion seemed to be establishing a role in urban space—in the home, in the community, and even in the nation—as a religion among religions in the African Renaissance of the twenty-first century.
Erected in 1908, this statue of Rhodes was intended by the architect Herbert Baker to be the spiritual axis of the city, with the city center realigned to radiate out from the “restless spirit” of the archetypal British imperialist. While this statue was placed at the center of the city, a monumental memorial to Rhodes was erected above and beyond the city on the slope of Devil’s Peak. 22 Guarded by two rows of lion-sphinxes modeled on the Avenue of the Sphinxes at the ancient Egyptian Temple of Karnak, the Rhodes Memorial houses two statues.
41 As the cell of Nelson Mandela became a “virtual shrine,” Robben Island attracted tourists from all over the world on pilgrimage to this sacred space that celebrated the triumph of the human spirit over the forces of colonial oppression. In the colonial constructions and counterproductions of sacred space, religious meanings of urban space were generated not only out of Christian, Muslim, or other conventional religious resources but most potently out of the history of the city itself, especially as that city was inscribed in the statue or the monument, the razed neighborhood or the island prison.