Tree of Wisdom celebrates Nelson Mandela’s commitment to education

The Tree of Wisdom, a striking four-storey sculpture, has been erected at the Mandela School of Science and Technology to commemorate former President Nelson Mandela’s commitment to education.

Internationally-recognised installation artist Daniel Popper, 30, has completed the 11 metre giant Tree of Wisdom at the new Mandela School. “Like Mandela’s legacy, this sculpture will last forever,” Popper said of the giant artwork, which rises above the school buildings. The black granite base of the sculpture has quotes of wisdom from Mandela.

“Madiba famously said that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world, and the new Mandela School is part of Siemens’ contribution to vital science and technology education in South Africa,” said Siemens executive director Rita Nkuhlu.

Popper has built sculptures and models for international festivals and art events, including Burning Man and Boom. The Tree of Wisdom is his first school statue and his first work in the Eastern Cape. The Tree of Wisdom is built on a monumental scale from galvanised steel with a granite base surrounded by a durable wooden deck. It weighs approximately four tonnes. “It is not a statue of Mandela but a powerful symbol of his commitment to education,” Popper says.

The sculpture was built at the Rootform Art Factory in Salt River, Cape Town. After the steel components were bent and welded into shape, the whole sculpture was cut into pieces and bolted together. It was then disassembled and transported 1290 kilometres by truck to Mvezo, where it was erected outside the hall at the Mandela School of Science & Technology. “We built an enormous artwork in record time to be sure it was ready for the school opening in January 2014,” says Popper.

The Tree of Wisdom has been designed as a functional art piece which students can sit around during breaks from lessons.

Construction of the Mandela School of Science & Technology began in October 2012 and the finishing work is now underway.

About the artist
Born in Johannesburg in 1983, Daniel Popper creates artworks that bring fantasy to life. He graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art and quickly developed a global career featuring puppetry, performance, installations and sculpture.
Popper created his first giant puppet for the AfrikaBurn festival in 2007, after which he was commissioned by MTN to produce puppets for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In 2011, Popper was commissioned by Siemens to create a 15 metre baobab tree for the COP17 climate change conference in Durban, with 3,000 LED lights powered by solar panels and bicycles.