Former SA President and the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg City reflects on Madiba’s legacy
“In preparation for seminars on so on, I revisit African history. This painting brings it out the art with so much vigour that my sentiments and memory of the facts have been reinvigorated.” – Dr galame Motlanthe.
Former South African President, Dr Kgalema Motlanthe, also a recipient of an UJ honorary doctorate, visited the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) on Thursday 7 May 2015 for a private tour of A Salute to Mandela, a 38m long painting created by renowned Chinese artist Li Bin.
Dr Motlanthe said that the painting was proof that art is necessary and important. “Art sums up feelings of people. Their views and values. Artists can also create a reality different from what we know, enabling people and society to look far ahead. And that reality can be achieved with time.”
Like a story teller, the soft spoken Dr Motlanthe shared untold stories on leaders like Chief Augustine Butana Chaane Motsepe, a leader of the Bakgatla-Ba-Mmakau tribe and father to South African tycoon Patrice Motsepe, whom both are featured in the painting.
Fresh after delivering the State of the City Address, Johannesburg Mayor, Parks Tau accompanied by the city’s Head of International Relations: Protocol and Stakeholder Management, Dr Oscar Van Heerden, also visited the University to view the epic Mandela painting.
Mayor Tau called the painting a great depiction of the life and times of Nelson Mandela, who went from a rural homestead to becoming a world icon brushing shoulders with the top leaders in the world.
The artwork which took Bin almost two years to create compelled the mayor of Johannesburg to reflected and confront some of his own experiences.
“There are periods that become more personal, like the 80s when many of us were young activists facing all sorts of challenges like the violence in the townships, the arrests,” said Mayor Tau.
Tau continued to reminisce: “I go back to the day of the first inauguration (pointing at the painting). Many of us stood at the Union Building grounds, overwhelmed with emotion. I remember how the tears came down automatically from the culmination of hard work as election workers at the time. You realise that actually, we’ve arrived at the point of freedom, and it now our responsibility to take this country forward.”
After the successful run of the two week exhibition, a content Li Bin leaves the country with a grateful heart. “When the South African people gave me praise on my work, it made feel very satisfied. I thank every viewer, every audience. Thank you!
A Salute to Mandela exhibition is an essential element for the year of China in South Africa 2015, in collaboration with UJ’s Confucius Institute which aims to promote the Chinese language and culture in South Africa.