Painting a legendary life

Updated: 2014-02-05 10:29

By Wu Ni in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Painting a legendary life

Photo by Gao Erqiang / China Daily

Li has made the overall color spectrum of the painting like a rainbow, echoing South Africa's nickname of the "Rainbow Nation".

Painting a legendary life

Oil paintings memorialize Mandela 

Painting a legendary life

Artist preserves old styles through painting and calligraphy 

The first part shows a middle-aged Mandela reading in prison against a dark green backdrop in the shape of Robben Island, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. When he was moved off Robben Island, he had become a mediator and a man of wisdom.

Li put Mandela's quotation - "I detest racism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man"- in a prominent place on the painting.

"He did not overthrow the rule of white people to establish a system where the black people rule the white people," Li says. "Instead, he reflected on the unfair system and targeted it rather than a certain race of people.

"In his early days, he had believed in using violence against his enemies. But after those years in prison, he came to believe that all people's lives, including those of his enemies, were worth cherishing. So he eventually convinced the authorities to give up violence and negotiate."

Then the dark red paint turns to saffron yellow in a bright scene from the country's first general election in 1994, when black people were allowed to vote for the first time.