A police officer admires an image of Nelson Mandela made up of hundreds of children’s handprints in St George’s Mall opposite Mandela Rhodes Place.
A police officer admires an image of Nelson Mandela made up of hundreds of children’s handprints in St George’s Mall opposite Mandela Rhodes Place.
A Mandela mural in Venice Beach, LA.
A Mandela mural in Venice Beach, LA.
Picture: Tracey Adams/ African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Tracey Adams/ African News Agency (ANA)
Two rows of light boxes honouring Nelson Mandela are lined up at the Cape Town Civic Centre.
Picture: Jason Boud/ African News Agency (ANA)
Two rows of light boxes honouring Nelson Mandela are lined up at the Cape Town Civic Centre.
Picture: Jason Boud/ African News Agency (ANA)
Mandela banners in the CBD.
Mandela banners in the CBD.
The Mandela facade on the exterior of the Civic Centre building.
The Mandela facade on the exterior of the Civic Centre building.
Artist Michael Elion walks towards his Perceiving Freedom artwork at Sea Point Promenade.
Artist Michael Elion walks towards his Perceiving Freedom artwork at Sea Point Promenade.
Two rows of light boxes honouring Nelson Mandela are lined up at the Cape Town Civic Centre.
Picture: Jason Boud/ African News Agency (ANA)
Two rows of light boxes honouring Nelson Mandela are lined up at the Cape Town Civic Centre.
Picture: Jason Boud/ African News Agency (ANA)
From Venice Beach, Los Angeles, the ruins of St Romain, Rhone-Alpes in France, the canal-lined Spuistraat in Amsterdam and bustling Queens, New York; cities separated by thousands of miles and disconnected in culture, there is one glaring, unifying similarity.

The walls of buildings in these cities are a canvas for artists to depict the smiling face of Nelson Mandela. He holds pride of place, immortalised in art which is a stirring testimony to his legacy of peace and democracy.

The memory of our revered political leader is celebrated similarly in the Mother City.

Mandela’s connection with the province is woven into its DNA and is part of the narrative of his journey to freedom and the country’s liberation.

Tributes are etched across the edifice of the city - from bronze busts to life-sized statues, public art space installations to the walls of art galleries and museums, Mandela’s likeness has served as inspiration for countless creative representations of his life’s work and memory.

Driving into the city centre on Nelson Mandela Boulevard, Madiba’s familiar face gazes over the city.

On the Civic Centre building the Father of the Nation watches over the Mother City, a giant artwork on the exterior of the city landmark that towers at 42m high and 17m wide.

The design, by artist Linsey Levendall, is spread across 660 windows. Mandela’s shirt is resplendent with images of Table Mountain and District Six.

Similarly the city’s sprawling urban landscape is dotted with graffiti artworks of Madiba.

Walk up Darling Street in the CBD and you’re greeted by a massive mural of a smiling Madiba, juxtaposed with other Struggle icons - Steve Biko, Cissie Gool and Imam Haron.

A stroll through St George’s Mall leads you to artist Brian Rolfe’s imposing yet striking mural of Mandela, smiling beside another familiar face - Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Madiba’s legacy has also become a template for artists with a social message.

Cape Town’s historic District Six, an enduring symbol of the hardships of apartheid, is adorned with murals and graffiti bearing the Mandela likeness.

One, a sprawling blue-tinged piece by Cape Town graffiti artist Mak1one, embellishes a wall in Canterbury Street. Beside it is a quote from Mandela: “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

On Sea Point’s popular Promenade, a sculpture of giant metal sunglasses greets passers-by. The Michael Elion installation - a tribute to Madiba’s impact on society which was based on photograph of the former statesman wearing a similar pair - was erected in 2016 and casts a reflective look across to Robben Island - Madiba’s prison home for 18 years.

At the V&A Waterfront’s Nobel Square, a statue of Mandela stands proudly beside those of fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk.

Claudette Schreuders’s exhibit opened on Reconciliation Day 2005 (16 December), and is a reminder of the world’s recognition of Mandela’s role in attaining peace and democracy in South Africa.

And outside the gates of the Drakenstein Correctional Centre in Paarl, the low-security prison farm where Mandela spent the last three years of his long incarceration, his life-sized bronze statue stands proudly, fist raised in defiance.

On July 24, 2018, the city will unveil a new Mandela statue on the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall, the place he first addressed the country - and the world - following his release from 27 years in prison.

But it’s his own artworks, drawn post-imprisonment and post-presidency in his Johannesburg home in 2002, which paint the most intimate portrait of what Madiba endured in this quest for freedom.

The charcoal and pastel artworks detail memories of his life on Robben Island and include a romanticised representation of Table Mountain through the bars of his prison cell.

In his centenary year, the scores of artistic representations of the ordinary man who became an icon and one of the world’s most recognisable figures serve as a reminder of the indelible mark his humanity left on the world.

And the various veneers of a smiling Mandela remain artistic snapshots of a man whose legacy is now forever frozen in time.