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Portrait of A Nation, a poignant and inspiring multi-media exhibition by 21 Icons and Mercedes-Benz South Africa, opens 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.

Says Adrian Steirn, project co-founder and principle photographer: “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.”


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.?!?Mercedes-Benz South Africa as co-sponsor sees a perfect fit with the objectives and goals of 21 Icons and its goal to inspire a nation through the icons that have shaped the country’s future and psyche. “Building our rainbow nation is a wonderful privilege our company shares with millions of other passionate South Africans. Building world-class passenger cars and commercial vehicles is our business and our passion – and building vibrant communities is our honour,” Arno van der Merwe, CEO and vice president manufacturing Mercedes-Benz South Africa says.

On display during the exhibition is the ‘Beaded Benz’, a life-sized artistic representation of the new C-Class Mercedes Benz – made of wire and beads. This innovative idea by plant management in East London involved local beaded product artists in the celebration of the production of the new C-Class, effectively linking the excellence of the company’s products to the passion of the South African people through design.

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.


“This exhibition is the culmination of years of meticulous planning, persistent determination, craft and creative expression by all involved. Every icon has been a well of inspiration. It is a tremendous privilege to share their stories” says Harriet Pratten, Project Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director.?!?Several regular precinct events will be located in the 21 Icons exhibition over the two-month period like Mandela Day and The Weekend Social. Portrait of A Nation is open every Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and entrance is free of charge. @moadjhb on Twitter and Instagram

Media Enquiries: Hayleigh Evans +27(0)832451040









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