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The inspirational life of Nelson Mandela forms the basis for an extraordinary art collection that show cases the story of a deeply-beloved South African icon. Circa on Jellicoe, one of Johannesburg’s most exciting urban art galleries, was privileged to host a single private viewing of this collection, namely John Meyer’s “Mandela: A Life’s Journey”. Held on the 23rd of February 2017, the evening, which was in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, allowed guests to enjoy these powerful and thought-provoking artworks before they embark on an international tour that will include some of the artistic capitals of the world.

The series is on loan from a private collection owned by Andrew Dunn, CEO of Richmark Holdings, and each of the 16 pieces are works in acrylic and sand on canvas. Dunn commissioned the series from renowned South African artist John Meyer, whom he considers to be one of South Africa’s greatest living artists. The series took three years to complete and the result was a heart-warming and descriptive look at Madiba’s life. The private viewing resulted from the recognised need to show off the magnificent art pieces to South Africans before the world tour begins. According to Dunn, “John is a living legend who has painted for the Queen of England, Paul Allen of Microsoft and many more world and business leaders. Thus, choosing him to help fulfil my dream of owning a collection based on the life of Nelson Mandela was an easy decision.”

For Meyer, Nelson Mandela’s rare and universal influence challenged him to raise his game and reach new levels artistically. Meyer explains of his work, “I want to explore the private world of people’s lives, the enigmatic unexplained and hidden emotions.” Having met Mandela on several occasions, Meyer has always been struck by his saintliness and the fact that he has served as a rallying point for all the world’s dispossessed. He did, however, try to avoid politics in the series, aiming rather to capture Mandela’s humanity.

Mark Read, owner of Circa, notes that CIRCA has curated some of the most intellectually stimulating exhibitions to be shown in contemporary South Africa. He comments that, “At Circa, we seek to hold exhibitions that cause people to think about our wonderful country, to question its past and ponder about the future that lies ahead.” For him, the showing of this collection was a great honour: “This very tantalizing brief showing of 16 miraculous paintings is the story of our continent’s greatest human icon painted by the best realist of his generation. What gallery wouldn’t be proud to show that?”

nelson mandela life