World’s Largest Portrait of…

Nelson Mandela Portrait, 14 x 14', 2013
Paul Blomkamp

Johannesburg – Nelson Mandela is lilac, pulsing-pink, blue, and sandy tan.  He is a collection of energy, a precise assembly of meticulously measured stripes.

This describes the gigantic portrait, 14 feet high, honoring “Tata,” or father, the term of endearment many South Africans use for Nelson Mandela.

Painted by South African artist Paul Blomkamp, this portrait deals with the anatomy of energy – a celebration of energized lines, shapes and spaces.

“For Tata’s portrait I turned to physics books to understand the interactions of the thousands of atoms that make up an individual,” Blomkamp says. “Each human being is made up of about 67 trillion unique shooting bits of energy.  In this dance of energy is intelligence, compassion and love.”

Thousands of vivid stripes suggest these shooting tracks of energy and the qualities the world celebrates in Nelson Mandela.

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  1. dkremenak December 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Sixty-seven trillion is a very large number. To contemplate that the human body consists of 67 trillion UNIQUE atoms is nothing short of flabbergasting. Paul Blomkamp has “reduced” that staggering atomic number to 14’x14′– a remarkable feat. With his shimmering stripes he has captured the essence of a man who epitomized forgiveness. Perhaps that aptly summarizes Tata’s energetic dance: intelligence, compassion, love.

  2. Roxene Sloate December 12, 2013 at 3:49 am - Reply

    Love what you and the artist have to say about creating fields of energy, however this portrait sure does not look like Mandela.

    • kkeditor December 12, 2013 at 6:57 am - Reply

      Great observation, Roxene. But it could have been a portrait by Bacon. Imagine.

  3. Margo Palmer December 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Is it a painting? Or is it made with some sort of lighting? I’d love to see it in person. It’s very impressive. I think it looks like him.

    • kkeditor December 12, 2013 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Margo…I have been trying to research exactly how Paul Blomkamp produced the portrait of Nelson Mandela. It looks like a painted
      black & white reproduction of a photograph with Blomkamp’s acrylic stripes painted over it. But I cannot find a description of his process. Any one else have a suggestion?

      • Margo December 13, 2013 at 9:52 am - Reply

        Hmmm. If you can’t find out, nobody can!

  4. dan goldstein December 13, 2013 at 1:57 am - Reply

    The size of this portrait rightly speaks to the magnitude of mandela’s impact. Thanks for timely sharing Kirby!

  5. Victor DePratti December 13, 2013 at 4:48 am - Reply

    Interesting. The physics description of energy, the number of particles involved and its relationship to love, intelligence, and compassion sounds more like philosophy/romance than science. But, who knows?

  6. Victor DePratti December 13, 2013 at 4:49 am - Reply


  7. Judith Gray December 13, 2013 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I certainly appreciate the dance metaphor and the wise and thoughtful comment above. I was growing up in New Zealand during the rugby controversy between the All Blacks and the Springboks. It was a turning point for the sport and for both countries. Mandela was undeniably a master catalyst for positive change.

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