The Tennis Court
The transformation of the courtyard so the prisoners could exercise playing tennis led Nelson Mandela to mediate on the perversity of being able to play such a civilised sport in so brutal an environment.
"In 1977 forced manual labour was ended after we maintained a two-year go-slow strike. We asked to do something more useful with our days instead of the monotony of mining lime and stone from the quarries. This action, however, robbed us of the opportunity to exercise, and after much effort we convinced the warders to allow us to convert the courtyard into a tennis court. Prior to this, the prisoners were marched round and round the courtyard for half an hour everyday. We used to walk around the courtyard quickly in single file under the watchful eye of the guards. Our persistence paid off and we painted the cement courtyard surface to create a traditional tennis court layout. Strangely, Robben Island was the first opportunity for me to play tennis since university. I was by no means an expert, but the exercise was a welcome break from the walks to and from the quarry and round and round the yard. Being able to exercise one's mind and body through play was immensely freeing. Playing tennis and attending to my gardening became my two favourite hobbies on Robben Island. It was a strange sensation enjoying such civilised hobbies in such an uncivilised place. It caused me to reflect on the strange and perverse nature of apartheid, where they wrongly thought that one peoples' freedom could only be enjoyed at the expense and oppression of another." From Artist's Motivation.
Every Nelson Mandela work sold by Belgravia Gallery has a signature verification by the eminent South African signature expert, Cecil Greenfield.