- Posted October 21, 2013 by
Sharpeville, South Africa
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The Africa we don't see
Nelson Mandela fresco style 3DPortrait to be unveiled in Sharpeville
Unlike most winters I have spent in my life, this most recent one was spent in a town that the world continues to view only in the darkest and most gruesome ways, namely Sharpeville. I met some very interesting and admirable people from this dusty poverty stricken, road-less wasteland. We connected because our morals and beliefs happen to be in sync and also because our passion and scope for socio-economic change through business inspired us. I Radile Mokone and an artist and entrepreneur named Teboho Mofokeng formed a small business workshop for entrepreneurs and thinkers from different fields. Teboho and I received news from Mr J** and his partner that apparently the Nelson Mandela Foundation wanted Teboho to undertake a project, worth several millions, of creating a portrait of Nelson Mandela. These guys were thrilled to give us the project because they had seen some of Teboho’s other works in his restaurant/gallery called Artrest. Mr J********** knew that if Teboho undertook the project and applied his innovative mind there would be a definite chance that a masterpiece could be created. They turned out to be correct.
I began working much like a documentary journalist. It was a mind blowing experience. I have travelled through the continent and abroad and I’ve learnt a lot about business and how it can alleviate poverty. Teboho and I both felt that this was an opportunity that would allow us to explore some of our business ideas on how to alleviate poverty. The excitement was so overwhelming. I had a digital camera to take photos once the creation of the Nelson Mandela Portrait began. In our excitement, we neglected to request documentation from Mr J**********. I mean, this was a school boy error I must admit. So, forgetting this documentation, we embarked 120% on this task. I was calling people telling them to come see what we are doing. Many came, even my best friend, from as far as Pretoria. He came because he believed in me. He believed that I was really onto something.
This project was soul crushingly difficult. We were given R1000 and a deadline. The deadline was 12 days. We risked our lives making sure that this piece is done in a way that lives up to Nelson Mandela’s reputation and esteem and that hopefully him or at least his family would cherish. We did it under a lot of pressure, but the community gave us support, as they continue to do now. This portrait required for Teboho to literally risk his life as he had to innovate, and invent ways to overcome technical challenges which had to be overcome to ensure that the mission was successfully accomplished. We felt that it was this or the death of us. My mother is in hospital and she is not well at all. The value of the portrait for me was intrinsically linked to my mother’s health and how much I changed from the influence of being around an exceptional character such as Teboho. For Teboho the value was linked to having a support base and new minds to share his experience with and contributing to Tata’s legacy. We shared many ideas together and built a great friendship.
The frame is unique as it is the only one of its kind. The portrait, is made in the fresco style of Italian art, and combined with the donated clothing, which was fitted and sewed onto the portrait. These clothes were donated by community members such as Lemogang and Oliver. This portrait embodied our beliefs, our efforts, and creating it moved our souls to the point where we felt that it recreated us spiritually. I felt GOD's presence around me and Teboho. The community came from far and wide to see and maybe lend a hand. The masterpiece is the only one of its kind because this picture of Mandela is amongst the rarest in the world.
After all the excitement and exertion, reality started to set in. Mr J**********and J********** the lady that he claims to be his wife said that they work closely together with Mandla Mandela. They were saying things like Teboho must be paid around R100million. I have been involved in many businesses however the millions promised were staggering. They spoke and laughed with us as we were creating it. They were so impressed when they could see the painting progress. Teboho and I felt that the portrait was so significant to lifting us out of our circumstances. We were convinced that only GOD could have allowed this to be possible. We asked that Mr J**********and J********** the lady he claims is his wife, for documentation. They refused to give us documentation. They claimed that we had to work on a verbal basis. I realised that this wealthy team were either trying to steal our painting or that they were conmen. Now their lack of professionalism made sense. Another incident also made more sense in light of the conclusion that I had drawn. A few days before this whole debacle they realised that I was taking photos to document the process. They asked if they could have the footage but luckily Teboho refused. I decided to design a contract that Tebza should give them. When he gave it to them their former friendliness melted away. They blew a gasket and they tried to discourage us by claiming that they were going to give it back however we should prepare for dismal failure because we were entirely inexperienced at promoting a painting and that we were useless because we wanted documentation. I guess they figured that townships are full of idiots. They looked very wealthy and it was insulting to realise that they considered people in the township to be complete idiots who deserve nothing but to be exploited. Never have I encountered such carrion at the core of living human beings. They still haven’t given the painting back, however we have contacted the police and they are taking up the matter. We have their photographs as well as a picture of their silver MERCEDES BENZ with the licence plate.
Well, the masterpiece is best described in its presentation folder. This painting makes Sharpeville shine in a positive light. The false conditions that J**********and his accomplice put us under were strict. We were denied the right to promote our work which is a freedom that any artist should be allowed. Since the reality of crime struck we have been free to do as we please with the footage. Many people are coming to Artrest to see the other amazing works of Teboho. We would like Artrest to begin as a business and artist hub and maybe eventually an Academy for amazing leaders of tomorrow. We still aim to be a place for any nationality or race, where we can interact and share ideas that affect our communities and the rest of Africa. This place is going to be the first of its kind. It is going to Unite Africa and the world by showing what is in Sharpeville, besides the Massacre!
I will be commissioning writers to write about Teboho and his various masterpieces. Each masterpiece will have a story, a certificate, video, photo, Poem, and hopefully a song. We will ensure that this is youth driven work.