95 Portraits in 95 Days for a 95th Birthday gift
I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man
who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.
Let us remind ourselves that it is ordinary people – men and women, boys and girls –
that make the world a special place.
When I first read these words, they left an indelible impression on me. How is it, I asked myself, that a great man such as you would utter words that seemed to trivialise the extraordinary life you have led?
Growing up in Apartheid South Africa, my experiences were all about Black and White. For too many years this limited palette determined: where we lived; who we could marry; which beaches we could visit; which buses we could catch; which hospitals would accept us; which schools and universities we could attend. When you were freed and ensured our peaceful transformation from Apartheid to Democracy, colour exploded into our lives. We could eventually live within a palette that was alive with the brightest colours.
Being an artist I like to express myself through colour and always use a bold palette. I have always wanted to thank you for what you have done for our beautiful country and through your words a seed was planted in my mind. What better way to celebrate your 95th birthday than to paint 95 portraits of ordinary people in 95 days.
Portraits are my passion , so my idea was to do this together with people from around the world that feel the same way about you as I do. Using social media, I collected faces of 95 people together with their personal messages to you. For the last 95 days I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit of people from around the globe.
For me the true nature of your influence on mankind is only just starting to sink in. As I write this you are lying critically ill in your hospital bed and your humble words are suddenly so much more poignant.
Your mortality as a man is now on everyone’s mind, the world over. Your immortality as an icon will live forever.
Thank you for adding colour to my life. Living in a colourful South Africa is my privilege.
Happy 95th Birthday
With much love