Last month, South African’s celebrated the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in different ways. The manufacturing team at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) honoured Madiba by transforming a Ford Ranger into a unique piece of mobile art for donation to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, established in 1999 after he stepped down as president of South Africa.
“At Ford, we are very proud of our South African heritage.No one did more in pursuit of the South African dream than Madiba himself and it is thus a privilege to be able to hand over this one-of-a-kind Ranger to the worthy Nelson Mandela Foundation,” said FMCSA managing director, Neale Hill.
The car is adorned with the South African flag on its roof and a portrait of Mandela on the bonnet, while its side panels and rear tailgate pay further tribute to his foundation and celebration of Mandela Day.
The designs were all done by hand by four talented artists working in Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant’s paint shop in Pretoria.It took 48 hours of painstaking work, mostly outside of the team’s normal working hours – to complete the artwork.
“For all of us at the paint shop this was a very exciting and humbling opportunity that gave our artists an opportunity to showcase their skills,” said Dorah Mmekwa, Manufacturing Engineering Manager, who led the project.
She admitted that the team were quite nervous at first. “Mandela’s image is so iconic, and the team were eager to do him and the foundation justice. Once they got started it was clear there was no need to be anxious. The vehicle looks superb and we are all extremely proud to have been a part of its creation,” noted Mmekwa.
This is not the first time Ford has created art Rangers. In 2019, employees at Silverton created Stimela in celebration of Heritage Month. “Stimela was a tribute to Ford’s proud 96-year manufacturing history locally, as well as a fitting representation of our nation’s rich heritage and diversity,” said Ockert Berry, Ford’s VP of manufacturing.
The Heritage Day tribute car sported a giant national flag all the way from below the grille, up and across the bonnet, and over the roof of the double cab. The tailgate was decorated with Ndebele tribal art, and a map of South Africa showing the location of Ford’s plants in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
About 3,500 staff members from Ford were given a chance to name the art cars by submitting their title of choice for the car and Mandla was ultimately selected. All in the spirit of a great hero and #MandelaMonth.
“It pays homage to the powerful slogan Amandla, Awethu that was often chanted by Tata Nelson Mandela when he had his fist clenched up in the air. That vision of him is still in so many South African’s memories and is a prominent feature of the artwork on the vehicle”, said Hill.
“In addition, Mandla is a very popular Zulu/Xhosa name that means power or strength.” Mandla is not destined to be an exhibition piece as the Nelson Mandela Foundation will be putting the Ranger to work in their various education and upliftment projects”, he added.
“We are honoured to accept this generous donation from the Ford team. The last few weeks we have been engaging regularly with the team on the project. Ford’s passion and commitment to making the vehicle a unique and fitting tribute to Mr Nelson Mandela has been admirable,” said Yase Godlo of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.