AND EVERYBODY LOVED HIM
Seldom comes a moment where the entire world collectively stops and reflects at the passing of a single individual. In this modern age the passing of Nelson Mandela is like losing everyone’s favourite uncle, the ‘nice one’ we all should know, although few can say how he really touched them.
Oops there’s an inappropriate joke in there somewhere – but take it how you will. There’s an episode the popular Fox Cartoon American Dad, featuring Mandela where he’s mistaken for Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman that makes us laugh, in a nice way.
So how do you sell paintings of a truly inspirational guy just after he’s died without seeming morbid and opportunists? Can we inject a dignified humour into our sales pitch whilst saying “please buy this work, because if you don’t in 18 months time every will have moved on and forgotten who he was and what he stood for”?
If like the Romans you are right now arguing: “What did Mandela ever do for us?”
The truth is, not a great deal, but he was dignified, honourable and statesman-like in what he did publicly which is something perhaps our own politicians and other celebrity Big Cheeses could learn from. It is, after all what seems to matter most.
His canonisation in media began long before his retirement and withdrawal from public view. He was an icon long before his release from prison in 1990 after 20-something years at the hands of an oppressive racist regime supported by many of the international governments who now sit in mourning flying their flags at half-mast.
Were he (Mandela) a religious character he’d teach Joseph& the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame a lesson or two in forgiveness and reconciliation, not just of his family or nation (South Africa), but of the world around him.
If he really harboured and grudges he kept those close to his chest.
At Guerilla Galleries, three of the artists we work with have attempted to capture the essence of Mandela. London-based Piluca and Paris-based Elizabeth Roman both include him as part of a series featuring a quartet of good people ‘ambassadors of peace’. In Spanish-born Piluca’s four canvas series, he features alongside Mother Theresa of Calcutta, The Dalai Lama and Ghandi, while Peruvian Elizabeth Roman opts for Martin Luther King Jr in her line-up instead of Mother Theresa.
David Vigor, whose is vying for inclusion in the annual National Portrait Gallery’s BP Award takes the individual approach and looks to capture the Mandela we think we know – that gentle, warm, caring essence of an honourable and noble statesman, who could easily pass as a favourite uncle. And all of the above are true, or as honest and as true as current history or a single image or portrait and bitty information and imagination allows it to be.
But all good things come to end. Regardless of how you see him and we won’t ask his ex-wives, or the mates his fallen out with… what counts is what is remembered when you’re done. He was a quality bloke, although we would’ve spat in Margaret Thatcher’s eye on meeting her – he didn’t unfortunately. And like the closing lines of that equality quality BBC children’s TV series Bagpuss it would be fair to say: “but Emily loved him”…and so did we!