Mandela’s Robben Island artworks will be sold next week – as an NFT set for R54,000 – Business Insider South Africa


Nelson Mandela NFT art

The Church, Nelson Mandela, Robben Island series (Image supplied)

  • Nelson Mandela produced a series of five artworks, depicting his time spent incarcerated on Robben Island, in the early 2000s.
  • The artworks and a handwritten motivation will now be minted and sold as non-fungible tokens or NFTs by the London-based auction house, Bonhams.
  • A single image as an NFT will sell for $699 (around R10,744) and the full set will sell for $3,495 (around R53,723).
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Nelson Mandela’s colourful sketches of Robben Island will be sold by a London-based auction house as non-fungible tokens.

Non-fungible tokens – or NFTs – have taken the art world by storm. These forms of digital artworks, stored on a blockchain as proof of ownership and authenticity, set record prices in 2021, helped along by the cryptocurrency boom.

And although NFT sales – which generated $25 billion last year – show signs of slowing down, many galleries, auction houses, and popular brands are still actively investing in these forms of digital art.

Bonhams, one of the oldest auctioneers of fine art and antiques, is the latest auction house to push boundaries, by becoming the first to offer artwork by Mandela as NFTs. Mandela’s Robben Island series – consisting of five artworks and a handwritten motivation completed in the early 2000s – will drop as NFTs on 9 March.

The sale, in partnership with Nelson Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, will be offered through the NFT platform, Nifty Gateway.

Nelson Mandela NFT art

The Harbour, Nelson Mandela, Robben Island series (Image supplied)

Lithographs of the Robben Island series have previously drawn fierce controversy, with Nelson Mandela and his legal team arguing that the work had been forged. Makaziwe Mandela has also come under fire, much more recently, for supplying her father’s personal items to New York-based auction house, Guernseys.

Makaziwe Mandela has, according to Bonhams, approved and supported the minting of her father’s artwork as NFTs.

“I am extremely pleased to be partnering with Bonhams and Nifty Gateway to offer these exclusive NFTs of my father’s work,” said Makaziwe Mandela, in an announcement issued by Bonhams.

“NFTs are an exciting way to democratise art, and I’m delighted to share my father’s legacy in new forms.”

The five artworks on offer include, The Cell, The Window, The Lighthouse, The Church, and the Harbour. These works depict scenes and areas of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years incarcerated.

Nelson Mandela NFT art

The Window, Nelson Mandela, Robben Island series (Image supplied)

“He revisited the island in order to capture the essence of the island. After which he applied his unique style of bright colours to the series of works,” notes a description posted on the House of Mandela Art, managed by Makaziwe.

A single image as an NFT will sell for $699 (around R10,744), according to Bonhams, while the full set, including Nelson Mandela’s handwritten motivation, will sell for $3,495 (around R53,723).

The size of the edition will be “determined by popular demand” but an upper limit of 10,000 has been suggested by Bonhams.

“Nelson Mandela is quite simply an icon whose life is a source of strength and inspiration to millions of people throughout the world,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African art, said in a statement.

“Having previously sold original artwork by Nelson Mandela at Bonhams, we are delighted to offer these NFT editions which will allow collectors and admirers to share in his work.”

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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