Mandela Clings To Life, S. Africa Honors Him With Opus

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Written by Dana Sanchez

At home and on his deathbed, Nelson Mandela is being honored with an opus that includes new material chronicling the life and times of the anti-apartheid icon, it was announced Tuesday in Johannesburg.

And it’s no ordinary opus.

“The Nelson Mandela Opus” will measure more than 19 inches-by-19 inches and weigh 37 kilograms (81.5 pounds), according to SouthAfrica.info.

About half the material in the book has never been seen before, said Opus Media CEO Karl Fowler, according to NewsChannel24.com.

The ailing Mandela is not doing well but is continuing to put up a courageous fight from his “deathbed,” family members told the South African Broadcasting Corp., according to  ABCNews.

Daughter Makaziwe Mandela told SABC: “Tata is still with us, strong, courageous. Even, for a lack of a better word … on his ‘deathbed’ he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.”

The opus will tell Mandela’s story in a unique and definitive way, SouthAfrica.info reported, featuring the finest writers and images displayed on an unprecedented scale.

It will pay tribute to Madiba in the year of his 95th birthday, with publication scheduled to coincide with South Africa’s 20 years of democracy in 2014.

Just 10,000 full-sized copies will be sold worldwide, with millions more condensed versions mass produced.

The opusis another way of taking Tata’s legacy to people all over the world,” said Mandela’s grandson, Ndaba Mandela, at the announcement of the project at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, according to SouthAfrica.info. “There can never be enough ways of telling his story.”

Opus Media, Matchworld and Africa Rising collaborated with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the House of Mandela to publish the “The Nelson Mandela Opus.” Journalist Ryland Fisher, a former Cape Times editor and author of “Race,” is editing the epic publication.

Hundreds of books have been written about Mandela and the topics are almost inexhaustible, Fisher said. The challenge is what to leave out.

“This is the biggest tribute that you can ever think of… and part of the challenge we had was to ensure that the unique thing about the book not only be its size, but the unique elements.”

Fisher went to great lengths to find untold stories of peoples’ encounters with Mandela, according to SouthAfrica.info. “For instance, the chapter on the day of Madiba’s release is unique because we spoke to various people involved in different parts of his release,” Fisher said. “We also spoke to someone who was in the house with Madiba before he came out, we spoke to the person who drove his car, we even spoke to another guy who walked around on the Grand Parade with a gun hidden under his coat, looking for potential people who might want to take Madiba out.

“When we did the interviews with family members, I really thought we would get a sanitized version of history, and people would not be open and honest with us. What we’ve got was actually amazing – we got the family members speaking, warts and all.”

Present at the launch of opus” were Mandela’s wife Graça Machel, daughter Makaziwe, grandson Ndaba and Mandela’s praise singer, poet Zolani Mkiva, according to NewsChannel24.com.

South African photojournalist Benny Gool is the opus photographer.

“We will end up with a minimum of 2,000 images,” Gool said. “What is nice about this book is that you can display images like I’ve never seen in a book.”

The opus foreword will be written by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. It will also feature contributions by Bill Gates, Naomi Campbell and Sir Richard Branson. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Madiba’s fellow Nobel Peace laureate, F.W. de Klerk will also add their voices to the opus.

Mandela spent almost three months in a Pretoria hospital after being admitted in June with a recurring lung infection, ABCNews reported. He was discharged in September and has been receiving home-based medical attention since then.

His condition has consistently been described as “critical but stable.”

A photographic portrait of Mandela was bought by a private art collector in New York for $200,000 – the highest price ever paid for a local portrait, according to a report on Dawn.com.

Proceeds will be donated to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital under construction in Johannesburg, and to the World Wildlife Fund, Dawn.com reported.

The portrait, by photographer Adrian Steirn, shows Mandela’s face reflected in a mirror.

“I wanted Madiba to hold a mirror so that we could see a man reflecting on his life,” Steirn said in the report. “As he reflects on his life, we reflect on his legacy and our future.”