Change the world


Nelson Mandela University’s George Campus is now home to a large oil painting of Madiba by acclaimed Capetonian artist, Marc Alexander, on loan to the institution from former South African Airways chief executive, Michael Myburgh.


From left, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa, George Campus Director Dr Kaluke Mawila and Michael Myburgh. 

The 1.2m x 0.9m painting, which is a typical Marc Alexander creation for its hyper-realistic portraiture, was handed over to the Campus during an intimate gathering of the University’s executive management, and Myburgh and his wife. It was part of a Madiba Legacy Series by the artist, created between 2010 and 2012.

Delving into his reasons for lending the only University named after the globally renowned statesman and peacemaker, Myburgh said it was not only a space issue at his new home just a stone’s throw from the Campus, but that it would be of more value at the University.

“I have seen a convergence between the interests of my wife and I, who own the painting, and [those of] the University and, apart from the question of storage of the painting, the two more important areas of convergence lie, firstly, in an area of aesthetics,” said the octogenarian art enthusiast who led the national airline from 1993 to 1998.

“I had the privilege of seeing the artist at work on that painting from the earliest time and saw how it took him months of patience and intense artwork to produce what I really do regard as a unique piece of art showing the ex-president in a very, very realistic and acceptable light.

“I have thought to make it available to an academic institution like this. Not only do I have a special place in my heart for this academic institution, but if one can have the students that attend this University take note of the fact that it is necessary to have patience and consistent perfection before one can achieve success, it would be a good lesson for them to observe.

“The third reason, and the most important one why I feel there is a real convergence between the needs that I have and the those of the University, lies in the fact that we have memories of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, memories of a man who was so taken into the heart of the global community that they ate out of his hand.”

Receiving the painting, Mandela University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa thanked the Myburghs for their recognition of the institution and what it stands – all mirroring those of its iconic namesake.

“The question of convergence that is threaded in your speech is actually very important for us as a University because we do believe that it is in the convergence of us and what we do and what we stand for with those in whose name we exist. So, we do not exist on our own and for ourselves,” said Prof Muthwa.

“We believe that our work should reflect the sentiments, wishes and ambitions of those in whose name we exist. That is why we call our University [one] that is in the service of society, so thank you very much.”

Prof Muthwa also thanked the Myburghs who, as South African citizens who have lived through parts of its turbulent history, are “so invested in the project of the national question of change, social justice and transformation in our country”.

“Hence this gift and this loan that you have given to us. I talked to this stewardship because stewardship is not something that you hold for yourself, but one that you are given to exercise responsibility over it, not for yourself,” she said.

“So, I see this as an opportunity for us to steward over this work, which as you have expressed in much better terms than I would be able to, the importance embedded in this work through the hands of an artist, but through the figure and the social figure of Mandela in terms of patience, poise, forgiveness, and of commitment to the indivisibility of human rights.”

Myburgh’s request and generous offer was made to the University earlier this year. The painting, which proudly hangs in the George Campus’s Madibaz Executive Boardroom, forms part of the portrait collection and other art pieces across Mandela University campuses that showcases the institution’s rich heritage.

It is part of archiving and maintaining the legacy of Nelson Mandela not only as a social figure, but a figure of social justice, which is one of the University’s anchoring values.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777