PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA
— One day after the funeral of Nelson Mandela, a nine-meter-high statue of South Africa's first black president was unveiled at the country's official seat of government.
It is a Nelson Mandela who is opening his arms and smiling that is now standing in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
South African President Jacob Zuma unveiled the bronze statue Monday as relatives of the late president watched.
December 16 in South Africa is traditionally a public holiday that celebrates the reconciliation of the country after the end of white-minority rule.
And the posture of Mandela in the statue, Zuma said, is highly symbolic. Unlike other statues of him, this one does not show the former president raising his fist like a freedom fighter.
"In all the statues that have been made of Madiba, he is raising his fist. This one is different, he is stretching up his hands," said Zuma. "This denotes that South Africa is now a democratic country. He is embracing the whole nation to say let us come together. That is the interpretation of the change of how the hands are now working on this one."
Members of the military leave a frame on the coffin of former South African President Nelson Mandela during his funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, and the widow of Mandela, Graca Machel, sit by his coffin during his funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's widow, attends his funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela's former wife, and his widow Graca Machel, center, walk from the funeral service to the burial site in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
The coffin of Nelson Mandela is taken to the burial site in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
The coffin of Nelson Mandela is escorted by the military to the funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
A Madiba Beat Crew dancer mourns outside Nelson Mandela's home in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
Nelson Mandela's coffin arrives at the family gravesite for burial at his ancestral village of Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
Lance Bombardier Fumani Bulebesi holds one of the canon shells fired for Nelson Mandela's 21-gun salute, Dec. 15, 2013. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
A screengrab from the South African Broadcasting Corporation shows members of the South African armed forces standing around the coffin of Nelson Mandela before it is lowered into the ground, Dec. 15, 2013.
Pumane Ngocwane travelled for 12 hours to get to Qunu, South Africa and made a dress for Mandela's funeral as she wanted to be on his soil as he was lowered into his grave, Dec. 15, 2013. Hannah McNeish for VOA.
Local women sit at a public viewing point near the burial ground of Nelson Mandela ahead of his funeral in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
A Zulu man sings and dances after the funeral of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
A Zulu man plays a bugle after the funeral of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, Dec. 15, 2013.
The statue was made by South African sculptors Ruan Janse Van Vuuren and Andre Prinsloo. For them, the idea was to create a welcoming and peaceful Madiba, to reflect what the country has become, and how the hero of the anti-apartheid struggle should be remembered: as someone who united the nation.
"Yes, he has a history of struggle, and yes, he used to be a soldier, but now we wanted to create a peaceful figure that embraced the whole nation, the whole South Africa," said Prinsloo.
South Africans queued Monday outside parliament, eager to lay eyes on the new statue.
For Zama Xulu, the statue honors the legacy of the Nobel peace prize laureate.
"Nelson Mandela left such a big space in our hearts. He showed us what is is to build a nation. He showed us what it takes to build a forgiving society, how to love each other, to embrace each other, and together we can do so much more. So yes, he has left a big shoes to fill, but it is only up to us now to ensure that we carry on and keep the South African flag flying high through Madiba's legacy."
Mandela passed away on December 5 at the age of 95 years old. He was laid to rest on Sunday at his ancestral home of Qunu.