In 2002, Nelson Mandela collaborated with one of South Africa’s foremost gold mines and sat while every detail of his hands was meticulously captured in 99.99% pure gold to raise funds and awareness for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund – the result of this collaboration is four gold castings offered here. Guernsey’s, is privileged to present to the world, at auction, four gold casts of Nelson Mandela’s hands — the only such sculptural works in existence. The auction will be held at Jazz at Lincoln Center at the prestigious Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York City on March 2nd at 7:30pm. Preview events will take place on Sunday, March 1st from noon – 7pm and Monday, March 2nd beginning at noon. The unique collection includes two powerful fists — one inscribed “1964", the year he was first imprisoned, and the other “1990”, the year of his release. The other two sculptures, an open hand and a full hand impression set in a solid gold block, also commemorate his final year in prison.
Deeply engraved with Mr. Mandela’s signature, the Gold Hands weigh between 77 oz. and 149 oz. each (2.7 kgs. and 4.6 kgs.) with the four hands weighing in excess of twenty-seven pounds (12.409 kgs.). Remarkably detailed, one can feel Mr. Mandela’s fingerprints and the very scar the beloved Madiba sustained while imprisoned on Robben Island. Handsomely encased in rare South African wood, each hand is a treasure. As a collection, it is nothing short of remarkable.
These exquisite sculptures are presented in kiaat boxes, a rare South African wood, bearing solid brass panels which state each casting’s respective commemorative year. The panels provide words Mandela shared with the world over the course of that year, along with each sculpture’s specific certificate of authenticity provided by the producer of the castings. This lists each hand’s weight and purity, serial number, and other details relating to the specific sculpture. All are accompanied by a document stating their authenticity issued by the maker, Harmony Gold.
The panel on the right side of each box commemorates what occurred to Mandela during that year. For example, the 1964 right-side panel speaks to Mandela’s trial and his sentence for life imprisonment. It states: “It was from the Pretoria local prison, Mr. Mandela was flown to a lonely airstrip on a grim overcast day. It was there on Robben Island, Mr. Mandela began his lifelong jail sentence on the very same island which today symbolized the freedom of South Africa.
The three boxes that hold the 1990 gold casts bookend Mandela’s prison sentence and speak to his release from prison. The text reads: “Mr. Nelson Mandela walked through the gates of Victor Verster prison on the 11th of February 1990. He raised his right fist for the first time in twenty-seven years and told the assembled crowd of supporters and journalists: “Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans. I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I, therefore, place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”
A figurehead of modern democracy and equality, Nelson Mandela is recognized globally for his work in furthering human rights. In June of 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement against the South African apartheid regime. He would not be freed until 1990. Upon his release, Mandela quickly rose to political prominence for his role fighting against apartheid and became South Africa’s first black president. In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize honoring his “work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”
Harmony Gold, a prominent South African gold company listed on the NYSE, worked closely with Mandela to create these works. A team from Harmony visited Mr. Mandela at his Houghton home to embark on the challenge of creating a high precision cast of Mandela’s right hand. Using the most advanced technology available at the time, they initially developed a prototype (which was later melted down) to test different methods of production. Settling on a vacuum process, the resulting castings carry with them the most intense details of an almost impossible nature. Every fingerprint on the castings is more distinguishable than if one were to look at their own.
Historically, Mandela’s raised fist symbolized solidarity and support in his fight against apartheid. Upon release from prison on February 11, 1990, he raised his fist towards the sky, an act that spoke to the gathered crowd louder than words. The open hand sculptures stand as a symbol of unity and reconciliation — an important message in the post-apartheid nation.
Celebrated and respected as one of the most beloved men of our time, Nelson Mandela thought of the hand as a symbol of unity and history. To Mandela “hands are not so much about my life as they are about my country.”
Inquiries about this unprecedented auction should be directed to Guernsey’s (212-794-2280, email@example.com), the auction house known for often presenting historically significant collections. Indeed, it was Guernsey’s multi-year effort that guided the Rosa Parks Archive to the Library of Congress.
Those who are interested in participating can view the catalogue online, and leave advance absentee bids, as well as bid live as the sale is taking place at Liveauctioneers.com.
Guernsey's welcomes inquiries from the media regarding both past and upcoming events. PDF copies of the press release and links to media coverage of Nelson Mandela, His Hands in Gold are available below: