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R20m Stern painting was being used as notice board

Stern’s painting that helped save Madiba’s life may become the most valuable SA painting ever after Bonhams’ September 9 auction





May become #1

A painting by acclaimed Jewish SA artist, Irma Stern, titled “Arab in Black” and valued at as much as R20 million, was discovered hanging in an English kitchen where it was being used as notice board, UK auction house Bonhams said last week.

The painting will be offered for sale on September 9 during the second “South African Sale” of 2015 at their posh New Bond Street premises in London. “Arab in Black” will be Lot 12 and is expected to fetch between R14 million and R20 million.

Irma Stern

RIGHT: “The painting that helped save Nelson Mandela’s life” will be sold on September 9 and may set a new record

The painting, which has wonderful “Struggle credentials”, had been almost lost to the world, say auctioneers, Bonhams. “Arab in Black” by the leading South African artist Irma Stern, has been linked to Nelson Mandela, they say.

Bonhams has advertised the artwork as the painting that helped save Nelson Mandela’s life, as Stern had donated the painting to raise money for Madiba’s legal defence at the Treason Trial. Mandela, who was eventually found not guilty of treason, had been arrested in 1955 on a charge of high treason, which carried the death penalty.

The painting went to Britain in the 1970s when the original buyer emigrated to the UK and was subsequently bequeathed to the current owner, who has chosen to remain anonymous.

The original owner was art collector Betty Suzman, whose father, Max Sonnenberg  founded Woolworths. Betty was the sister-in-law of anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman and her daughter is acclaimed actor and director Janet Suzman.

Hannah O’Leary, Bonhams’ head of South African art, found the painting in London when she went to a client’s apartment to appraise their art collection. “I was undertaking a routine valuation when I spotted this masterpiece hanging in the kitchen covered in letters, postcards and bills,” O’Leary said in a statement. “It was a hugely exciting find even before I learned of its political significance.”

“Arab in Black” signed and dated “Irma Stern  in 1939 on the upper left corner” and bears the inscription: “Arab in Black to stretcher and frame (verso) oil on canvas 61 x 51cm (24 x 20 1/16in) within an original Zanzibar frame”.


Who is Irma Stern?

Irma Stern was an expressionist artist. She was born in 1894 in Schweizer Reneke in the then South African Republic, later Transvaal. She was a major South African artist who achieved national and international recognition in her lifetime and her art fetches the highest prices for a South African artist. Stern died in Cape Town on August 23, 1966.

Earlier this year, Stern’s “Still Life with African Woman” fetched R17,6 million at Bonhams London’s first biannual South African sale of 2015. The sale had been dominated by Stern’s work with nine of her paintings on sale. “African Woman” in a replica Zanzibari frame, fetched the top price of almost R19 million.

In March 2011, Bonhams achieved a then-record auction price overseas for any South African work of art when Stern’s “Arab Priest” (1945) fetched R17,2 million.

Her “Two Arabs” sold for R21,1 million at a South African auction held by Strauss&Co, also in 2011, making it the highest price ever fetched by a South African painting. Who knows, this record may tumble on September 9.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Denis Solomons

    Sep 7, 2015 at 8:04 am

    ‘Oh some people have such talent;

    Irma Stern;

    imagine having a painting of yours that is worth R20 million .

    Bless her soul .’

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi



More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations



The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke



The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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