Bonhams auction house is offering the paintings of Nelson Mandela as an NFT Collection. The former South African president painted the My Robben Island, a series of five vivid watercolor pieces, from memory. So the artworks reflect his personal take on the place where he spent 18 of his 27 years in jail.
My Robben Island: Nelson Mandela’s Paintings Turned NFT Collection
The anti-apartheid hero painted the artworks after he stood down as president in 1999. Aside from the 5 paintings, the NFT collection also includes The Motivation. It is a handwritten text that explains Mandela’s visualization of the harsh island prison.
All six works bear his signature and feature very personal images. For example, The Cell shows the interior of the space Mandela occupied during his Robben Island years. Moreover, it has become a place of pilgrimage whose visitors have included Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Mandela’s meager possessions are piled beneath the window.
Makaziwe Mandela, the former president’s daughter, said her father’s watercolors represented “the triumph of the human spirit”. She added, “offering the artworks as NFTs is a way of reaching new audiences. My dad was all about creating an accessible society. This is a way of democratizing his art.”
Meanwhile, Giles Peppiatt, the director of modern and contemporary African art at Bonhams, echoed Makizawe’s sentiments. He also pointed out that digital art reached “new audiences that probably don’t go to art galleries and museums.”
My Robben Island will be offered by Bonhams on the Nifty Gateway platform in a six-hour period on 9 March at a fixed price of $3,495 for the edition, or $699 for an individual work. There is no set number for sale, although there is an upper limit of 10,000. “So however many are sold in that six-hour window is the edition,” said Peppiatt.
Mandela painted the pieces as a therapeutic activity under the guidance of the art teacher Varenka Paschke. Peppiatt described it as “very good, rather sad and poignant. You couldn’t get more personal images.”
Mandela’s daughter added, “When my dad was on the island, he was surrounded by grey. He never thought he would walk out of prison.” Despite the dire situation, the painting centered around hope instead of despair.