‘An artist’s reflection of Nelson Mandela’s great journey’


Today after more than two decades Surinder Singh Sambyal is bound to slow down his pace and take some time off to reflect on the glorious journey and struggles of Nelson Mandela.

Surinder joined hands with ANC (African National Congress) in 1988 on Mandela’s 70th birthday, when Nelson Mandela was confined at Robben Island prison.

He is overwhelmed with emotions and reflects on the milestones of his own life when Nelson Mandela not only inspired him but also brought out the artist’s powerful visual resolve to create a free, and non-racial society that Mandela fought for.

Surinder spent many hours with comrades from African National Congress Asian Mission listening to the heroic deeds of long imprisoned patriot Nelson Mandela.

He was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s long struggle against the apartheid and undertook the mission of raising voice through visual arts. He painted 12 artworks created especially to reflect the images in a caste based society.
It was in 1988 when Bhaichand Patel, the Director for United Nations Information Centre came forward to host Surinder’s solo show –‘A Tribute to Nelson Mandela’.

Surinder’s solo exhibition ‘A Tribute To Nelson Mandela` was hosted at United Nations Library, India International Centre, Parliament Annexes and one of the artwork became a part of the World Youth Action Against Apartheid . Late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi also supported this initiative of Surinder and met him personally to acknowledge his support.

‘Release Mandela’ poster designed by Surinder Singh Sambyal became a part of the famous ‘London March’ in Britain on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. The same was adapted to a Greeting Card sponsored by United Nations. Later on the eve of the visit of Dr. Nelson Mandela , Surinder Sambyal participated in an exhibition of specially prepared works of paintings, drawings and graphics at LTG Art Gallery and he was honoured by Dr. Nelson Mandela for the commendable support and solidarity he showed by being part of the struggle against apartheid.

In the words of E.S. Reddy, (An active supporter of the South African freedom movement and head of the United Nations Centre against Apartheid for over two decades ) “I was on a visit to India around that time. An Indian graphic artist, Surinder Singh Sambyal, showed me his poster for the 70th birthday of Mandela. I sent it to London and it was used by the Anti-Apartheid Movement in its rallies. Sechaba, the ANC organ, published it on its cover page in July 1988.”

Surinder reflects back in time when he also met Mosie Moolla, the ANC representative in New Delhi, and listened to the struggles of Nelson Mandela and other heroes of Anti Apartheid Movement.

“It’s remarkable how the anti apartheid movement that started in South Africa inspired me transcending all geographical and cultural barriers”. When Surinder migrated to Australia in 2008 , the only prized possessions he brought with himself were his paintings, Poster of Nelson Mandela , books on Anti Apartheid Movement signed by Mosie Moolla and handed in to Surinder personally by Mosie, the ANC representative in New Delhi.

Unfortunately Surinder lost all these invaluable pieces that meant the world to him in a recent break in at his home.
At a time when Surinder is still struggling hard to come to terms with his loss of stolen paintings ,Nelson Mandela’s critical condition is another blow to his artistic emotions and he reminisces the close bond with the great leader. Hoping against all odds Surinder wishes a long life to the great hero of the world and also hopes that his stolen paintings and memorabilia that was personally signed by Nelson Mandela ,will be found someday… a legacy of hope that Surinder has learnt from his mentor, Nelson Mandela.

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