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South craftsman shows of 23-year-old Mandela carving

By Stacy Moore Sunday, December 15 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Strelitza reginae,
Strelitza reginae, "Mandela's Gold", bird of paradise flower which was named after Nelson Mandela in 1996 by Kirstenbosch, South Africa...

AS The world continues to mourn the passing of former South African president Nelson Mandela, a San Fernando craftsman yesterday brought forward a carving bearing Mandela’s likeness that he did some 23 years ago while the iconic world leader was still in prison.

Popular south craftsman Junior Bisnath said the five-foot portrait of Mandela is expected to be placed in the San Fernando Museum.

Mandela, 95, died on December 5 at his Johannesburg, South Africa home. He will be buried in his home village of Qunu, in Eastern Cape Province today. In 1994 Mandela became South Africa’s first black president.

Speaking to Sunday Newsday, Bisnath of Henry Street San Fernando said that even though Trinidad and Tobago was a small island “we too are feeling and mourning Mandela’s death like the rest of the world.”

Bisnath said he started work on what he called his “Nelson Mandela’s Carving”, completing it in a few months.

“It was a time when the legend was in prison and the world was crying out to free him. Even then we cried out too,” Bisnath recalled.

Bisnath said incorporated in the heart carved below Mandela’s face is the map of Africa, inside of which is a representation of Winnie Mandela who continued the struggle.

Also carved on the piece are the words “Nelson Mandela the struggle is my life” which Bisnath said was taken from a speech by Marcus Garvey.

At the top of the portrait are the words carved, “One God” separated with the fists of two hands. “This signifies that there is one God and He watches above us,” said Bisnath.

Bisnath said he wanted persons in Trinidad to view the Mandela piece and remember his legacy. “We must not forget the struggles Mandela endured and I want the world to know that Trinidad and Tobago has been with them ever since. I want people to be inspired by this piece. Here is a man who was imprisoned and eventually became South Africa’s president. He stood for equality and that is what we all should stand for,” he said.

Bisnath, who works as a cabinet maker with the Ministry of Works, has been doing carving for the past 25 years.

He formed the “Constructive Termite” team along with woodworkers Mark Foster Joseph and Charles “Lion” Farrow. Many of Bisnath’s works have been placed at the San Fernando Museum which is being housed at a temporary site at a building belonging to the San Fernando City Corporation at Circular Road. One of his trademark pieces, reportedly the world’s longest pencil, is currently on display at NAPA, Port-of-Spain.

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