“I’ve recently made a children’s book about Nelson Mandela, but for a New Yorker cover, I settled on a younger image of him during the time that he was on trial with over a hundred of his comrades,” says Kadir Nelson about “Madiba,” his oil painting of Nelson Mandela, who died December 5, 2013, at the age of ninety-five.
“From looking at the photos of the time, I could see that the energy around him was very strong and that his peers were very much with and behind him,” Nelson added. “He was clearly a leader. I wanted to make a simple and bold statement about Mandela and his life as a freedom fighter. The raised fist and the simple, stark palette reminded me of posters and anti-apartheid imagery of the nineteen-eighties. This painting is a tribute to the struggle for freedom from all forms of discrimination, and Nelson’s very prominent role as a leader in the anti-apartheid movement.”
Nelson continued: “Being an artist is kind of like being an actor. So as I painted Nelson’s portrait, I felt empowered and proud like the man himself. He has long been a personal hero of mine. I saw him speak shortly after he was released from prison, in 1990. It was both an honor and a privilege to paint his portrait and tell his story.”
Click here to view slide show of Kadir Nelson’s picture book, “Nelson Mandela.”