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Robben Island by Nelson Mandela - Courtesy of Belgravia Gallery (UK)

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

In May 2002, Nelson Mandela began a series of sketches with the subject Robben Island. It was his own idea and in the company of noted photographer, Grant Warren, he revisited the island, scene of some of his most painful years with its cruel repressive regime.

Images of his cell, Table Mountain from the beach, the lighthouse, church, quarry, guard towers and many other scenes were photographed. At his home under the watchful eye of his young teacher, the South African artist Varenka Paschke, Mandela quickly adapted from world leader to budding artist. Paschke guided Mandela in basic composition and in the method of colour applications and Mandela proceeded to complete over thirty sketches, including images he found symbolically or emotionally meaningful from his time of incarceration on the island.

The works were completed in a series of colour separations; the strong black crayon lines were the first and guiding lines and then he added the colour for each image. He completed no one original piece for this lithograph collection – only a series of separations, which when overlaid, create a final picture.

The editions were signed individually by Nelson Mandela, with a generous and carefully drawn signature. He also wrote the artists motivations, again in his characteristically neat handwriting, offering an insight into his thoughts behind the colour images he created. Belgravia Gallery is deeply honoured to be associated with the spectacular initiative. Anna and Laura, of Belgravia Gallery, made a memorable visit to Mr Mandela’s home in Johannesburg in December 2002 to witness Mandela personally signing works from the first edition.

The Struggle Series by Nelson Mandela

They sharpened pencils for him and placed images in front of him to sign and carefully placed them in boxes containing already signed works, Mandela clearly having been busy for days. He chatted animatedly with Anna and Laura for four hours, and two months later spoke warmly about creating the works at a launch dinner for his art on Robben Island.

We trust that these most interesting and historical works of art allow some of the experience and pleasure to be shared.

In these sketches entitled: Robben Island, I have attempted to colour the island sketches in ways that reflect the positive light in which I view it. This is what I would like to share with people around the world and, hopefully, also project the idea that even the most fantastic dreams can be achieved if we are prepared to endure life’s challenges.

Belgravia Gallery

Belgravia Gallery is representing both established and emerging artists.

A state-of-the art racking system is installed in the basement of the gallery which holds over 150 pieces of artwork, varying from large oil paintings, works by Picasso and Andy Warhol to lithograph prints by Nelson Mandela, HRH The Prince of Wales and Charlie Mackesy, amongst many others. This system enables works of art previously unseen or not part of the current exhibition to be viewed all year round. 


The Mayfair Awards 2013


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