Mandela’s Robben Island artwork goes on sale next week – as an NFT set for R54,000

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The Church, Nelson Mandela, Robben Island Series (Image Provided)

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

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

And while NFT sales – which grossed $25 billion last year – are showing signs of slowing down, many galleries, auction houses and well-known brands are still actively investing in these forms of digital art.

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

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 Provided)

Lithographs from the Robben Island series have previously sparked heated controversy, with Nelson Mandela and his legal team arguing that the work was forged. Makaziwe Mandela has also come under fire more recently for delivering her father’s personal belongings to New York auction house Guernseys.

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

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

“NFTs are an exciting way to democratize art and I’m excited 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 was imprisoned for 18 years.

Nelson Mandela NFT art

The Window, Nelson Mandela, Robben Island Series (Image Provided)

“He revisited the island to capture the essence of the island. He then applied his unique style of bright colors to the series of works,” reads a description published on the Makaziwe-managed House of Mandela Art.

A single NFT image will retail for $699 (approx.

The size of the print run is “determined by popular demand”, but Bonhams has suggested a cap of 10,000.

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

“Having previously sold original artworks by Nelson Mandela at Bonhams, we are pleased to offer these NFT editions, allowing collectors and admirers to be a part of his work.”

(Compiled by Lukas Daniel)

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