The artwork, created in 2002, is from Nelson Mandela’s personal collection and estimated to be worth $60 000 to $90 000. That’s R840 000 to R1.3m.
Mandela created the sketch along with 21 other sketches which were turned into lithographs and used in his series My Robben Island and Reflection of Robben Island.
However, The Celldoor was emotionally powerful and had symbolic meaning. As such, he kept the deeply personal piece to himself. After his death, it was inherited by his daughter, Dr Pumla Makaziwe Mandela.
Dr Makaziwe Mandela confirmed that the artwork was indeed very personal to her father, as painting had always been a means to relax and reflect. She explains:
“For him, painting was a way of relaxing, but also of making sense of the past. 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.”
The Director of Modern and Contemporary African Art at Bonhams, Giles Pappiatt said the “cultural gravitas that Mandela capture in his work is of great significance.” He sees the lock as being symbolic for hope and adds:
“[The lock shows] hope where previously there might have been none, the work demonstrates his indomitable spirit with characteristic honesty and clarity. This is the first time that a work by Nelson Mandela has come to market in the US, and we expect that it will resonate strongly.”
Madiba was sentenced to 27 years in prison and spent 18 of those years at Robben Island. His comments about these works were typically inspirational:
“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.”