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21 ICONS: Nelson Mandela

21ICONS South Africa: Nelson Mandela


The 21 ICONS South Africa series launched yesterday featuring the man who inspired the entire project, Nelson Mandela. 21 ICONS is a series of iconic, black and white portraits and short films by preeminent photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn and production team Gingko Agency. The conceptual portraits and personal short films each feature a remarkable South African icon who has devoted their life to struggle for the greater good of mankind.


The 21 ICONS South Africa short films will be screened over 21 weeks every Sunday evening on SABC3 at 6.57pm, just before the 7pm news. Each accompanying portrait will be published as a collectable black-and-white poster in that day’s Sunday Times newspaper. Or you can catch up here every Monday.


Steirn photographed Madiba at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape. He said, “Nelson Mandela has come to symbolise hope for many South Africans. He is a man whose life and principles has captured the imagination of our world. I wanted to shoot a portrait that reflected his legacy. A legacy that we can all carry into the future by sharing his integrity and belief that a bright future lies ahead. I asked Madiba to hold an image and reflect upon his life. And when you look at the portrait, I hope the viewer is prompted to reflect on his legacy and our future.”


Not being able to use flash lights near Madiba, it was decided to use a soft, constant light when shooting the portrait. Steirn wanted some contrast to highlight the details in his face and used a two-point lighting setup — one soft, constant light from the front, angled from above and a second light to the side used as a fill light.


The original photographs, signed by the icons throughout the series, will be sold and the proceeds donated to his or her chosen charity. The proceeds from the sale of Nelson Mandela’s portrait will go to The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, which will become a state-of-the-art specialist pediatric academic and tertiary referral hospital providing child-centered services to the children of Southern Africa.


Fans can follow the series online through the digital campaign by Quirk Johannebsurg on Facebook, on Twitter or at, where you can find icon profiles and behind the scenes images uploaded weekly.


21 ICONS South Africa is proudly sponsored by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nikon, Deloitte, The Sunday Times, SABC3 and the Department of Arts and Culture.




Nelson Mandela being photographed by Adrian Steirn

Nelson Mandela on set for 21 ICONS

Nelson Mandela being photographed by Adrian Steirn


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