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Cyril Coetzee: The South African Artist behind Mandela’s Favourite Portrait

Cyril Coetzee has found himself, paintbrush poised, ready to capture some of Africa’s most prominent figures and moments. He was commissioned not once, but twice, to paint the portrait of the late Nelson Mandela for the former president’s private collection. The first of these portraits was completed during Mandela’s presidential term and deemed by Madiba himself as his favourite. This portrait was then sent to the rest of the world in the form of the International Commemorative Postage Stamp for Mandela’s 90th birthday. Flash forward twenty years, and Coetzee is again the artist of choice for dignitaries and prominent names in global affairs and commerce. This time, it’s Strive Masiyiwa, another African making his mark on the continent and the world, who has been captured on canvas. Coetzee also happens to be a skilled curator, respected art historian and lecturer. He has curated several exhibitions for the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg and has lectured both locally and internationally, in South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Switzerland. In 2006, he penned a much-lauded monograph on the work of Harold Voigt, entitled The Poetry of Sight.