ELDERLY AND FRAIL but willing to look himself straight in the eye: The final official portrait of Nelson Mandela found him in a reflective mood.
Photographer Adrian Steirn captured the quiet moment during the 21 Icons South Africa project in 2011 – this image had just been released this summer.
Steirn said that Mandela, ill though he was, asked to see the portraits of the other 20 people photographed for the project, which sought to record and celebrate the lives of extraordinary South Africans who had all contributed to creating the ‘Rainbow Nation’.
He said: “When Mandela asked to see the portraits of these men and women that had become part of a project that he’d inspired, that moment was the most humbling moment of my life.”
On photographing Mandela, he added:
At one point I looked up and every single one of the crew was crying. All I could think was, ‘I hope this is in focus’.
“I chose to shoot a reflection of Nelson Mandela so that when we look at that portrait, we can reflect on ourselves, we can reflect on his legacy and we can reflect on our future.”
The portrait was sold to a private art collector in New York just four days ago for the princely sum of $200,000. The proceeds were donated to the World Wildlife Fund and to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital fund – the hospital is currently being built in Johannesburg.
The remaining portraits in this project will be sold at auction in March next year – they include images of former South African president FW De Klerk, former Archbishop Demond Tutu, singer and philanthropist Yvonne Chaka Chaka.