This year, the incomparable Professor Thuli Madonsela celebrates her 60th birthday on 28 September with a silent online auction of a portrait in oil recently completed by the celebrated South African artist Shany van den Berg. All proceeds will be donated to Stellenbosch University’s #Action4Inclusion initiative, launched in 2020.
#Action4Inclusion supports students who cannot register for the next academic year owing to outstanding fees, as well as graduates who cannot access their academic records upon graduation, thereby hampering their capacity to contribute to a talented workforce.
Madonsela is the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice and Law Professor at Stellenbosch University where she conducts and coordinates social justice research and teaches constitutional and administrative law. She is also the founder of the Thuma Foundation, an independent democracy leadership and literacy social enterprise.
An Advocate of the High Court of South Africa and former Public Protector of South Africa, Madonsela has been a lifelong activist on social justice, constitutionalism, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. Named one of TIME100’s most influential people in the world in 2014, and Forbes Africa Person of the Year in 2016, Madonsela is one of the drafters of South Africa’s Constitution and co-architect of several laws that have sought to anchor South Africa’s democracy.
Reflecting on turning 60, Madonsela says she is grateful for reaching this milestone. “I have supported the call for free education. I am honoured to be a co-founder of the #Action4Inclusion initiative with young Maties leaders. The purpose of #Action4Inclusion is to help young people reach their potential so they have the same opportunity I have been blessed with, to be able to serve society at my fullest potential. Many have graduated because of this initiative and are now contributing meaningfully to our society, our environment and the world.”
Madonsela continues: “I call upon you to play your part to support this student debt relief initiative and other social justice advancing measures as an Ubuntu gesture and contribution to the constitutional commitment to establish a new society that is based on social justice, as one of three pillars. Thank you for serving as bridges of hope.”
The 94cm by 74cm oil painting of Madonsela will be sold through a silent auction and the highest bidder will not only receive the memorable artwork, but will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit down for lunch with Madonsela.
Globally renowned, Van den Berg has participated in numerous group exhibitions since 1990 and in private collections including in South Africa, Ghana, London, France, Germany, Australia, Luxenburg, the Caymen Islands and USA. She is an internationally recognised artist known for specialising in contemporary portraiture and figurative work with a strong central theme of womanhood.
On meeting Madonsela, Shany says she was struck by her soft-spoken, kind and powerful female presence. “Her energy filled the room and our conversation. I took this moment into my studio and let it guide me while painting her. My aim was to capture her elegance, graciousness and the unique energy that shines.”