Earlier this year eight Jewish artists featured in an exhibition in October celebrating the life and work of Nelson Mandela.
Curated by Natalie Knight and sponsored by South African businessman Alan Demby, the We Love Mandela: Art Inspired By Madiba exhibition at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square presented a variety of styles and depictions of Nelson Mandela and his legacy.
Dean Simon, who is known for his recreations of shtetl scenes, has produced many works on Mandela, but his choice inclusion in We Love Mandela was somewhat controversial. It is a black-and-white work based on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper,with Mandela depicted as Jesus, surrounded by peacemakers from various eras.
Susan Woolf, by contrast, has shown Mandela’s clenched fist in a manner which, when printed in a raised form, can be ‘read’ by blind people.
Having met him five years ago she says: “It is easy to be inspired by a man who has such conviction, stands steadfastly by what he believes to be right, but also has a capacity for kindness, forgiveness and acceptance of others.”
Using the metaphor of a tree to describe Mandela, artist Loren Hodes says: “Larger than life, the baobab tree dominates the African landscape as Nelson Mandela dominates the minds of all who strive for justice and equality.”
Also featured is Lena Woolf (unreated to fellow exhibitor Susan Woolf) who depicts the tomatoes, onions and chillies which Mandela planted on Robben Island prison in her tribute.
Zapiro (aka Jonathan Shapiro), a well-known South African cartoonist whose political cartoons on Israel have been described as “vicious” gives Mandela a quasi-biblical status when he “splits the sea”.
Fellow cartoonist Len Sak has included works that relate to the Mandela era, published in the South African daily The Sowetan between 1990 and 1994.
Meanwhile, award-winning photographer Michael Meyersfeld chose to capture the Mandela Bridge at night, as a symbol of the way in which Mandela has been able to bridge so many disparate elements. Graphic artist Eric Sher, whose father befriended the great politician while working in the same building, reconstructs Mandela’s offices based on his father’s description of it.
Final thoughts are left to South African Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, who says: “In societies which idolise the powers of the body, Nelson Mandela attests to the enduring power of the soul. He was a beacon of hope
in the dark days of apartheid and he remains a beacon of hope. “The global romance with Nelson Mandela is a sign of hope for humanity; we are still moved by heroes of the spirit.”