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The Late Nelson Mandela's Artwork Will be Auctioned Off in New York

'The Cell Door' is an artwork Nelson Mandela completed after he served his only term as the president of South Africa.


For the first time ever, one of Nelson Mandela's artworks will not only be displayed in public but also auctioned off by Bonhams. Following the end of his presidential tenure in 1999, Mandela took up drawing as a favorite pastime. Many of his drawings are depictions of the things he'd seen and endured during his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island.


The Cell Door is almost childlike in its simplicity. The pastel drawing, completed in brown and purple wax crayons, depicts part of the anti-Apartheid veteran's tiny cell where he spent the majority of his time. The focus of the drawing is of course the cell door which is seen to be visibly locked by a key.

The drawing has been in the possession of one of Mandela's daughters, Pumla Makaziwe Mandela. According to the BBC Africa, she said, "I think for him, art was a good way of expressing himself or trying to come to terms with his history and his (I wouldn't want to say) demons but just coming to terms with his whole life."

The artwork will be auctioned off today in New York and is expected to fetch as much as 90 000 USD. Speaking about the prized artwork, the director of the auction house's modern African art, Giles Peppiatt, said:

"The word 'iconic' is so overused but to have a drawing of one of the most important men of the 20th century… would be a remarkable thing...It was a very personal, very poignant work for him."
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Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP) (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA/AFP via Getty Images

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