We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

up close

Madiba: The last official portrait

Nelson Mandela’s last official photoshoot caught him in reflective mood. The portrait sold for charity just days before he died.


Image: 21 Icons South Africa/

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.

Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures>
“We struggle because we value life and love all humanity”: Mandela’s address to Dáil>

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.