By Nii B. Andrews.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela spent 18 of his total of 27 years in prison on Robben Island. He was often placed in solitary confinement and harassed by prison officials.

It did not break his spirit and to his credit, on his release, he became a conciliatory figure in his country and beyond. 

After Madiba retired in June 1999 as President of RSA, he started producing artwork.

A not insignificant part of his inspiration came from the years spent on Robben Island. 

He said, “It is true that Robben Island was once a place of darkness, but out of that darkness has come a wonderful brightness, a light so powerful that it could not be hidden behind prison walls, held back by prison bars or hemmed in by the surrounding sea.”

THE CELL DOOR, ROBBEN ISLAND: Nelson R. Mandela, wax pastel crayon, 59.4 x 42 cm, 2002, signed.

In the drawing above, Madiba in his trademark inspirational manner portrays the lock on his cell door as a symbol for Hope.

The art expert Giles Pappiatt of Bonhams explains, ” [The lock shows] hope where previously there might have been none, the work demonstrates his indomitable spirit with characteristic honesty and clarity.”

Hope indeed, is certainly very much needed everywhere at this time.

His daughter, Dr Makaziwe Mandela, has intimated that the drawing was treasured by him, “……it was a constant reminder that….. he should not take freedom for granted.”

The drawing, currently in the possession of the Mandela family, will be on sale during the upcoming  May 2nd auction at Bonhams in New York; its value is estimated at USD 60 – 90K.

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