7 most poignant pieces of Nelson Mandela memorabilia



2015-06-26 14:05:02

Nelson Mandela was freed 25 years ago , and his legacy continues through memorabilia

Image: Bonhams

We may have lost Nelson Mandela in December 2013, but on February 11, 2015, the world will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his release from jail.

Thanks to the relaxation of apartheid laws, the soon-to-be president of South Africa appeared at the gates of Victor-Verster Prison with his wife, Winnie, to be greeted by thousands of revellers from across the country back in 1990.

In celebration of the anniversary, we take a look at the greatest items of his memorabilia ever to come to auction.

**7. Chess set

Image: Kumbala Shop

We love this chess set, which shows the likes on Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, faced against the apartheid leaders.

Chess has long been the game of choice for leaders, helping them develop the strategic tactics needed to succeed in politics.

President Zuma said of the game: "On Robben Island, chess provided a solace to us that we needed in those conditions of isolation and deprivation. It propelled our minds beyond the confines of the prison walls and allowed us to reflect and to position our thoughts strategically to fight the regime."

These chess sets are still available, with Kumbala Shop's description reading: "Care to have a serious game with the South African icons who delivered the ultimate checkmate?"

**6. Presidential Inauguration coin

Image: S A Coin

This five-rand coin was issued in South Africa to celebrate Mandela's inauguration as president, and become the most beloved coin ever issued in South Africa. It reminds us of the huge social, political and economic change that Mandela and his fellow revolutionaries brought to South Africa, improving the lives of many of its citizens. 

A stunning piece, it is one of the most rapidly appreciating coins in terms of value, having sold for $99,337 or 750,000 and is incredibly collectible today in proof state. 

**5. The Guard Tower

Image: Bonhams

"At the time of my imprisonment, Robben Island was without question the harshest, most iron-fisted prison in the South African penal system.

"The racial divide on Robben Island was absolute. There were no black warders and there were no white [prisoners]. Warders demanded a master-servant relationship. There were no watches or clocks on Robben Island, we were dependent on bells and warders' whistles and shouts as our time-pieces."

"In the prison, the towers looked over us throughout the day. In this sketch I have attempted to pull together the two elements that overshadowed our lives for so many years: the towers and the ever-restraining barbed wire. The image shows the harsh reality that reminds me of our sacrifice and endurance, the use of more cheerful colours in this sketch is my way of presenting how we feel today," wrote Mandela of the current piece, which sold for $ 7,289 at Bonhams in 2010.

The work is part of the Robben Series, a group of sketches that Mandela completed in prison, turning to art to help console himself against the harsh realities of life behind bars.

**4. Handprints

Image: Stephan Welz & Co

There are thousands of imprints of Nelson Mandela's hands on the market, issued under the title Hand of Africa and signed by the man himself.

Yet these imprints are the original studies for the piece, created by Mandela's granddaughter. Together, the pair covered both sides of the paper with Mandela's inked handprints, before he signed it on both sides.

The original work sold for $20,482 at Stephan Welz & Co in 2014.

**3. Robben Island shoes **

"Never judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes."

Nelson Mandela wore these brown ostrich leather shoes during his time on Robben Island, as well as on the day of his release. They are a poignant reminder of the old saying above, as well as one of the greatest items of his memorabilia.

Signed in silver felt pen "N. Mandela 28.1.95", they sold for $7,217 in May 1995 to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

**2. The Freedom Charter **

Image: Bonhams

The Freedom Charter, issued in 1955, lays out the core principals of the South African Congress Alliance.

With the iconic opening "The People Shall Govern!" it records the demands of the South African people, such as "land to be given to all landless people" and "free and compulsory education irrespective of colour, race or nationality".

It was read at a Congress of the People on June 26, 1955, with the crowd shouting "Afrika!" and "Mayibuye!" after every section, before the meeting was broken up by police. 

A hugely important document signed by the various leads of the alliance, it was put up for sale at Bonhams in 2010, but was bought prior to the auction by a group of South African businessmen for around $76,000.

1. South African flag

Image: Bonhams

The current flag of South African was formally adopted on April 27, 1994, at first designed as an interim flag by State Herald Frederick Brownell for the first fully inclusive elections the nation had ever seen.

This example was flown from the helicopter that passed over Mandela's inauguration ceremony on May 10, 1994, with the man himself later recalling the iconic moment in his autobiography:

"A few moments later we all lifted our eyes in awe as a spectacular display array of South African jets, helicopters and troop carriers roared in perfect formation over the Union Buildings.

"It was not only a display of pinpoint precision and military force, but a demonstration of the military's loyalty to democracy, to a new government that had been freely and fairly elected...Finally a chevron of Impala jets left a smoke trail of the black, red, green, blue and gold of the new South African flag."

Autographed by Mandela and his deputy presidents, the flag went up for sale at Bonhams in 2010, but was withdrawn prior to the sale, presumably snapped up by a collector willing to pay any price to own one of the greatest pieces of Mandela memorabilia available.

Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it