He was a man known to many as an icon of democracy, who stood fiercely against the worst racial segregation system to have been effected; undoubtedly, Nelson Mandela was indeed a man of great talent. The world still continues to celebrate his life and legacy.
The celebration of his message and life has also transcended borders with the latest Mandela ‘issue’ across the Atlantic being of an auction in New York. The piece involves a drawing that he put together in 2002 over a decade after he was released from the famed Robben Island prisons.
“The Cell Door, Robben Island,” fetched far more than auctioneers had originally expected. The piece depicts an image of the door of the prison cell which he called home for several years during his stay on the island. Of all the sketches that the great statesman made, this is the one he kept close to himself/
The piece is one of the few that he kept for his own personal collection, a probable reminder of the “long walk to freedom” which brought freedom to his country. It is one of 22 sketches Mandela made in 2002 as a therapeutic activity, a few years after his resignation as President.
“This work held a particular significance for him as it was a constant reminder that he could not forget what seemed unforgettable and that he should not take freedom for granted,” said his daughter Makaziwe.
It sold for $112,575, close to double of the estimated value which stood between $60,000 and $90,000. The bars of the cell and a key in the lock are painted purple, showing an orange floor inside.
The piece was auctioned by Bonhams under the Modern and Contemporary African Art. The piece was being held by a son of Mandela.
“When my father retired as the president, he didn’t have much to do. I think for him, art was a good way of expressing himself or trying to come to terms with his history and his (I wouldn’t want to say) demons but just coming to terms with his whole life,” Dr. Pumla Makaziwe Mandela said.
Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams’ director of modern and contemporary African art, said he knew the family had drawings and had been working to persuade them to put one in a sale.
“This is one of the most poignant and important of the ones they’ve got, because it is such a wonderful image, it meant so much.”
Peppiatt said the key in the lock was a symbol that showed hope where there might have been none. “The work demonstrates his indomitable spirit with characteristic honesty and clarity,” he said.
Mandela's drawing was one of six works that surpassed $100,000 at the sale of African art on Thursday.
Another South African artist, Irma Stern (1894-1966), earned the highest price of the auction, $312,575, for "Malay Girl," a portrait from 1946.
Header Image Credit: The Guardian