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Mandela auction suspended in the name of preserving South African cultural heritage

An auction of Nelson Mandela's personal effects planned for next month in New York has been suspended due to opposition from the South African government, the latter and the organizer of the operation announced on Tuesday.

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Mandela auction suspended in the name of preserving South African cultural heritage

An auction of Nelson Mandela's personal effects planned for next month in New York has been suspended due to opposition from the South African government, the latter and the organizer of the operation announced on Tuesday.

Around a hundred “precious objects” that belonged to the former hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, who died in 2013 at the age of 95, including an identity card and some of his famous colorful shirts, appear in the sale catalog . This is offered by an American auction company, Guernsey's, in connection with Makaziwe Mandela, the daughter of the first black South African president.

While the sale was to take place on February 22 at Lincoln Center, Guernsey's has decided to suspend it, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) announced on Monday. “This sale is suspended,” Guernsey’s confirmed Tuesday in a message published on its website.

Initially announced in 2021, the sale had already been suspended. The SAHRA took legal action on the grounds that the auction included objects of historical and cultural importance. South African judges finally gave the green light in December, but a new appeal was filed, the outcome of which is still awaited.

“The suspension of sales is a responsible and considerate approach,” welcomed the SAHRA. “It will allow ongoing legal proceedings to conclude and gives (us) the opportunity to pursue (our) objective of preserving the cultural heritage of our nation,” she adds.

The sale aroused the anger of the South African government, which opposed it. “Nelson Mandela is an integral part of South African heritage,” Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa lambasted Friday, calling for evidence of “his life’s work to remain in the country.” An appeal was filed to block the “unauthorized export” of certain items intended for sale, the minister continued.

Guernsey's described an "exceptional" and "unprecedented" sale. A black silk jacquard shirt, which Mandela wore when he met Queen Elizabeth in 1996, was offered at a starting price of $34,000 and an ostrich leather briefcase at $24,000. Letter exchanges and gifts from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were also included in the lot. The original of Mandela's identity document, dating from 1993, is priced from $75,000. The key to Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island, which was part of the first catalogue, is no longer there.

According to Guernsey's, Mandela's daughter authorized the sale in order to raise funds for the construction of a garden in memory of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, near his grave, in his childhood village of Qunu (south). AFP was unable to contact Makaziwe Mandela.

The president of Guernsey's, Arlan Ettinger, told AFP earlier in the month that the objects offered for sale were of little historical or cultural importance and would, without this sale, have ended up "on shelves or in a cupboard somewhere” and “been forgotten” than in a museum.

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