Yesterday I painted this mural as part of the Freedom Bloc Party organised by Sisanda Myataza, with a wonderful article being written on it by Dawn Limbu in her article for the BBC:

'The mural of the former South African president will be painted by artist Nick Halahan at the Pickle Factory in Easton on Saturday. Freedom Day is celebrated in South Africa on 27 April to commemorate the first post-apartheid elections held on 26 April 1994.'

Nelson Mandela mural to be unveiled at Bristol Freedom Day event
The mural will be unveiled as part of a day of celebrations marking 30 years of South African democracy.

The pressure was on for this one as painting portraits can go very wrong if you don't capture their look, and the fact that the BBC had mentioned it doubled my ambition and nervousness! I had to do this live with a crowd watching and only having a five hour window before I was needed back for kids bedtimes.

As a result I decided to play it safe in terms of design and I'm so glad I did. By going grey scale for the portrait simplifies the task, as does avoiding photo realism with all the skin textures and contours that have potential to if done incorrectly, make it look like someone completely different.

Someone came up to me, shaking my hand and thanking me for representing their culture and making them feel home. He particularly liked the slight dip over Mandela's left eye, and described how he had met him at a rally once and shaken his hand.

Once I had the face and South African flag completed, it was time to add the text 'Long walk to freedom'. However as is often the case at this final stage, I'm anxious the text doesn't ruin it, and discussed it with someone who was quietly watching. She gave me the confidence to continue, saying that it would make it less formal with the handwriting adding an endearing personal touch, combined with a message that is still relevant today. She said despite the celebrations and it being 30 years since apartheid was abolished, South Africa is still on that long walk with extreme wealth inequality and high unemployment.

As highlighted by the link below which says that 'South Africa is still the most unequal country in the world in terms of wealth distribution, according to the World Bank, with race a key factor.' In the words of Mandela himself, "after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb".

South Africa marks 30 years since apartheid amid growing discontent
Polls predict ANC likely to lose parliamentary majority, due to high unemployment and wealth inequality