The Life and Times of Nelson Mandela

The Young Mandela
500mm x 700mm | Graphite on Hahnemuhle Paper

The Young Mandela

As a young man in his prime, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was handsome, strikingly tall and strong. He was clever and proud, yet simultaneously introverted and humble. Growing up in Qunu, doing duty as a herd boy under the watchful eyes of the Xhosa women, he developed a love for open spaces. 

His education took him to Fort Hare, and he eventually went to Johannesburg to make his mark. It was there that he met, and fell in love with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase. The marriage fell apart when he became involved in the ANC, and met his second wife, Winnie Madikizela.

The Struggle Years
500mm x 700mm | Graphite on Hahnemuhle Paper

The Struggle Years

Nelson Mandela saw first hand, the grinding evils of Apartheid, as he and Walter Sisulu plied their trade as lawyers in the Johannesburg of the 1950s. It was these experiences that lit a flame in him, and drove him to fight for freedom. 

In this piece, I seek to capture the oppression, cruelty, pain and suffering he had to endure during this stage of his life, as well as his steely will, and his determination to stand up to the Apartheid Government.

The Incarceration Years
500mm x 700mm | Graphite on Hahnemuhle Paper

The Incarceration Years

For 27 years, Nelson Mandela was left to age in a series of prisons, kept out of sight by the Apartheid Government, Mandela nevertheless became a rallying point for struggle activists, and indeed, the world. 

He was imprisoned as a young man, subjected to untold hardships and humiliations, and forced to do hard labour in the limestone pits of Robben Island. His time in prison did not break him; instead, it tempered his anger, and brought him to the understanding that forgiveness would bring reconciliation and tip the scales of justice.

The Statesmen Years
500mm x 700mm | Graphite on Hahnemuhle Paper

The Statesmen Years

This piece depicts Madiba’s release from prison, and his role as a leader, and father to a fractious toddler of a nation. It highlights the importance he placed on reconciliation, education and unity through sport. It also explores Mandela’s love – both for his children and grandchildren, and the woman who stole his heart for the last time - Graca Machel.

The Peace Years
500mm x 700mm | Graphite on Hahnemuhle Paper

The Peace Years

I hope that the final piece brings a sometimes tragic, but entirely inspiring life full circle. I wanted to capture the sense of peace Nelson Mandela found when he finally withdrew from public life, with his famous “Don’t call me, I will call you” quip. Madiba never stopped working for the love of his people. The children of a new nation that he helped birth will be forever grateful for his lessons and guidance.


Motivation
500mm x 700mm | Graphite on Hahnemuhle Paper

Motivation

Nelson Mandela spoke the language of humanity. He taught a fractured nation how to care for each other, and look past the divisions that 400 years of Colonialism and Apartheid had entrenched. 

He displayed qualities that I strive for in my own life. He taught us that courage means facing our fears, standing steadfast in our vision, and seeking to serve humanity in all that we do. 

He displayed kindness, and a willingness to forgive human flaws, preached and practiced forgiveness and reconciliation, and helped heal a people bruised by years of war. 

Mandela was able to strip away the blindfold of the ego, letting the light of knowledge and the true meaning of life shine through. 

Series Information

The series comprises 5 art works, executed in graphite, combined with a technique that the artist has developed using a process of chemical transfer. Also included is a motivational piece. 

The full sized images are 500mm x 700mm. 

The series will be released in two editions: 

300 full sized sets, with 30 artists proofs, and 750 A5 sets with 75 artists proofs printed on 310g Hahnemuhle German archival etching/ art paper.

Artist Motivation

I have wanted to honour Nelson Mandela for many years. 

The challenge was how to do it differently from so many other wonderful artists. 

I’ve love portraiture, and Madiba’s beautiful, expressive face provided the perfect subject matter. 

I set out to dig deeper, to depict more than just the laughing old man who healed a nation’s wounds, or the handsome, lithe young boxer who took up the cause of freedom. 

I wanted to tell the story of his life, in all its richness, reflecting the strength, the sadness, the humility of one of the world’s giants. 

This desire led me on a year-long journey of discovery. 

I learnt about this great man, and gained an understanding of why he resonates with so many people, including myself. 

The series of 5 portraits were completed in graphite, as well as transfer and graphite. Each piece took countless hours to complete, giving me the time to contemplate the lessons he had to teach. 

No piece of work can truly pay homage to this great man, but I hope to have brought to life a small part of his story, a reminder of the hardship he endured, the beauty he embodied, and the love he gave so freely to all his people. 

I felt at many stages during the making of this work, that I was merely an instrument, a channel for the healing energy that Mandela radiated. 

I will always be grateful for the opportunity to embark on this life-changing journey.

Using Format