Portrait of A Nation, a poignant and inspiring multi-media exhibition by 21 Icons and Mercedes-Benz South Africa, opened on Youth Day, 16 June 2014 at the Museum of African Design in the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg.
In celebration of 20 Years of Democracy, the two-month long exhibition features portraits and short films of 21 of South Africa’s greatest social masters including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Sophia Williams De Bruyn, Ahmed Kathrada, Nadine Gordimer and George Bizos.
The exhibition is the culmination of the first season of 21 Icons and marks the first public showing of the collection. Portrait of A Nation includes the last photographic portrait of Nelson Mandela of which a signed limited edition was sold for a record R2 million in December 2013 and donated to charity.
Venue address: 281 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, 2094
Exhibition times: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday each week
Closing date: 17 August 2014
Like so many photographers, I had a dream of photographing Nelson Mandela. In the process I met 20 other incredible, iconic men and women. Their stories are the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. It is an honour to see the chronicle come together in an exhibition that will enrich the lives of so many people.
-Adrian Steirn, project co-founder and principle photographer
Adrian Steirn is the creator, photographer and director of 21 ICONS South Africa. Among his accolades, Steirn was named portrait photographer of the year at the Africa Photographic Awards in 2010, as well as the Nikon Africa professional photographer of the year in 2009. He has been the photographer-in-residence for the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa for the past three years, and is represented by the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg.
Visitors to the exhibition will experience an audio-visual, interactive walk-through of the original portraits and accompanying short films while accessing a 21 Icons smartphone Augmented Reality (AR) app that acts as a personal exhibition guide.
Organisers have made provision for guided school tours during the exhibition to enable youth engagement with 21 Icons. In adherence with the government curriculum requirements, educator Tali Nates, Director at Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, has developed an educational interactive programme using the icons’ stories while examining the moral choices people engage in. The tours will be conducted by trained university students from the University of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg.
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