I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
My first image of Nelson Mandela took the shape of an illegal portrait, spray-painted on a concrete wall surrounding a rugby field in George, South Africa.
The year was 1984, I was eight years old and South Africa was the pariah of the world. State President PW Botha was a year away from delivering the infamous “Rubicon” address, and Nelson Mandela faced another six years as prisoner of the South African government.
“Free Mandela” was scribbled beneath the stenciled portrait. The image had been surreptitiously painted overnight and my brother and I noticed it on the way to our whites-only government primary school. By the time we returned in the afternoon, it was gone. Hastily painted over—but neither the image nor the message ever left us.
It’s quite extraordinary to reflect on that moment now, as the South Africa that I was born in has changed beyond recognition…