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R1.6m fetched for Madiba sketch of his cell door

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A powerful sketch by Nelson Mandela The Cell Door, Robben Island sold for $112575 (about R1.6million) at Bonhams’ Modern and Contemporary African Art sale in New York earlier this month.

The wax pastel crayon work, created in 2002, was the only work the statesman kept for his family’s personal collection. It had an auction pre-sale estimate of $60000 to $90000.

After his retirement in 1999, Mandela turned to art as an activity that helped him reflect on his tumultuous life. In 2002, he created 22 sketches about his 27-year-long imprisonment.

Ten of the drawings were reproduced as editions of lithographs for the series My Robben Island (2002) and Reflections of Robben Island (2003). The sets did not include The Cell Door, which was regarded as a personal image and one he wanted to keep for himself and his family.

Mandela’s sketch fetched about R1.6m. Picture: Supplied

“Today, when I look at Robben Island I see it as a celebration of the Struggle and a symbol of the finest qualities of the human spirit, rather than as a monument to the brutal tyranny and oppression of apartheid,” 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….”

His daughter Dr Pumla Makaziwe Mandela-Amuah owned the sketch.

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