Tribute: the hands of Nelson Mandela – ‘Hand of Africa’!

April 6, 2010

The hand of Africa - by: Nelson Mandela!

“Hand of Africa” – by Nelson Mandela!

(Part of ‘The Hands of Nelson Mandela‘ tribute)

In 2007 Nelson Mandela presented his famous lithography series titled: ‘My Robben Island’. The lithograph in this exhibit with the highest price tag ($32,000) was made by accident when Mandela placed his hand in wet ink – see the picture above.

The idea of hand prints however intrigued him and he began to make several images. Only later did an assistant point out the iconic image inside the right hand print of the painting now in front of us. In the center of Mandela’s right palm shows a clear silhouette of the African continent. This is how Nelson Mandela became the most commercially successful artist of the twentieth century.

The Robben Island Series of charcoal and pastel sketches was completed by Nelson Mandela between March and June 2002.

Mandela said about his scetches:

“These sketches not so much about my life as they are about my own country, I drew hands because they are powerful instruments, hands can hurt or heal, punish or uplift. They can also be bound but a quest for righteousness can never be repressed. In time, we broke loose the shackles of injustice, we joined hands across social divides and national boundaries, between continents and over oceans and now we look to the future, knowing that even if age makes us wiser guides, it is the youth that remind us of love, of trust and the value of life.”

“Impressions of Africa” (left) & “Hand of Africa” (right) by Nelson Mandela.
Impressions of Africa & Hand of Africa by Nelson Mandela.


Signed, limited edition lithograph – Paper Size: 650 x 500 mm.
Throughout history few have left so indelible an imprint on the international stage as Nelson Mandela. His courage, his compassion and his humanity are among the qualities than have led to this Nobel laureate being recognized as the world\’s greatest living statesman. It is therefore fitting that the extraordinary imprint of his right hand should so closely resemble the shape of the continent of Africa. It is as though its rhythms, sources of strength and dynamism were reflected in the character of this truly amazing man who is now also a talented artist. Never did a single individual more powerfully symbolize the hopes of a nation. South Africa became free in the way that it did because his hand reached out to all and thus his name became a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples throughout the world. The edition is limited to 1,000 hand printed lithographs. The print is numbered 263/1000. All plates have been destroyed.


Signed, limited edition lithograph – Paper Size: 650 x 500 mm.
Africa has historically had a capacity for suffering which has often seemed almost infinite. Slavery and colonialism, a poverty, is afflicting millions throughout the continent. In the second of these works, the imprints of the hands of children surround that of Nelson Mandela\’s left hand. Nelson Mandela, now in his eighties but as resolute as ever, is once again reaching out to answer the new cry from children in his beloved country. The edition is limited to 500 hand printed lithographs. This print is numbered 239/500. All plates have been destroyed.

More of Nelson Mandela’s sketches are available at Gallery Peter Herrmann

More Nelson Mandel handimpression from the 46664 concert project.
More hand impressions of Nelson Mandela - the 46664 concert project.

On 29 November 2003 an event called the ‘46664 Concert’ was held at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. It was hosted by Mandela and its goal was to raise awareness of the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. In 2005 follow-up 46664 concerts were presented in George, South-Africa and Madrid, Spain.

The meaning of the number 46664 is explained as follows:

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1964, and was the 466th prisoner to arrive that year. The prison administration’s scheme of numbering prisoners was to follow the sequence number of the prisoner (466 in his case), with the last two digits of the year (64).[1]
The number was imposed on him by the prison for over 25 years, until his release in 1990. “Prisoner 46664” continues to be used, as a reverential title for him, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation uses as its website address.
Shortly before Joe Strummer’s death, he and U2’s Bono co-wrote the song “46664” for Mandela as part of the campaign against AIDS in Africa.

On July 18, 2009, the 91st birthday of Nelson Mandela, the first ever Nelson Mandela day was organized.

Nelson Mandela in a t-shirt of the first ‘Nelson Mandela day’ at july 18, 2009.
Nelson Mandela celebrates the very first Nelson Mandela day: july 18, 2009.

And on november 26, 2009 the United Nations decided to declare July 18 as: Nelson Mandela International Day.

Interestingly, the story behind this announcement is quite remarkable: after Mandela – While branded a terrorist by the US Government – was allowed in 1990 to speak in New York at the United Nations General Assembly. It took another 18 years before the United States finally removed Nelson Mandela and ANC party members from their designated terrorist list.

Nelson Mandela celebrates the very first Nelson Mandela day: july 18, 2009.

Finally, a few more impressions from Nelson Mandela’s hands … who became also known as the first black president of South-Africa (1994-1999).

[Additional curiosity: the most remarkable hand characteristic in Nelson Mandela’s hands is the extra crease on the lower phalange of his pinky fingers.]

The Hand of Nelson Mandela – photos, articles & videos
Presidential palm readings: the hands of 10 US presidents!
Famous hands gallery – the hand of politicians

Nelson Mandela's left hand.

Nelson Mandela's left hand.

9 Responses to “Tribute: the hands of Nelson Mandela – ‘Hand of Africa’!”

  1. Deela Khan Says:

    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

    You stood in Isaac’s painting,1 head in the Milky Way,
    Wrapped in a starry shirt of indigo, your open hands
    Releasing a pair of white doves bearing olive twigs.
    You were cloudwalking in a shirt of stars—
    “What do you think?” Isaac asked.
    “Has it captured the spirit of the Rolihlahla?”2
    “It has more than stirred me, it has spirited
    My breath away”, said I, mesmerized.

    Now, can I understand why my poem for you
    Refuses to arrive. How do I write you, colossal
    As you have grown, our Madiba?
    Where do I gather pristine words to celebrate
    You with a hint of freshness. You are alive, your legend
    Continues, competes with the ever proliferating oceans
    Of words chanting your praises, ululating your lives.

    You have lived too many lives, you have been
    Too many faces, you have witnessed the passing
    Of too many seasons; now life has seasoned
    You with the gifts of seer, of Universal Healer.

    Portrayed for posterity as cosmic traveller, Rolihlahla,
    The painting bares you as gentle soul attuned to animals,
    One with the elements, as cloudwalker walking the
    Starways, turning with the music of the spheres,
    As icon, now property of the global community,
    Dragging an olive branch over the chasms that
    Split our nations, able to resolve the irresolvable
    And obliterate the wars and suffering
    Afflicting our people with the magic of your presence.

    Hero of every kid and every grown kid I know,
    Inspiration, Role-model, Grand-father
    Of the world for generations to come,
    History captures you as bearer of Hope,
    Deliverer of Sunbeams, Slayer of tyrannies—

    April, 2000

  2. Hello!
    Thanks for discribe about the science of hand, carachter. I like theese writeings in hungarian too and I can find them to be very valuable as for the contact of other poeple. It is very important and generally are true if I am listening to them.
    On your site I was checking my numbers of 9 /Cheiro doesn,t like tha number) and 1, which is on to my tasks.
    Many Greetings for You and Congratulation!

  3. […] Many years ago I was privileged to shake hands with Nelson Mandela. His hands not only exude warmth and comfort by touch, but they also exhibit an unusually balanced set of lines. Mandela once said “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”. No surprise – he has superb head and heart lines on his magnificent hands! Dutch psychologist and hand analyst Martijn van Mensvoordt has offered the world a unique and rich presentation of Mandela’s hands.  I urge you to visit: […]

  4. […] Price winners have this ‘nobel’ ring finger line as well, including: Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Mother Teresa & Martin Luther King – more details will be discussed in the […]

  5. Theo Varesko Says:

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

  6. […] In this perspective it is interesting to notice that Nelson Mandela has the same rare ‘apollo line’ […]

  7. […] FOR FURTHER READING: • October 15 – ‘Global hand washing day!’ • July 18 – ‘Nelson Mandela day!’ • Swine flu prevention is a matter of ‘hand hygiene’! • Hand Hygiene: warm air […]

  8. Jennifer Says:

    This is really really cool, good job Martijn!!
    x Jen Hirsch

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