Sculptures and Tiny Sweaters for Nelson Mandela Day

by | Jul 18, 2019 | Johannesburg, Limpopo | 8 comments

Today is Nelson Mandela Day. July 18th was Nelson Mandela’s birthday (he died in 2013 and would have been 101 today), and while it’s not an official holiday, it’s a day when South Africans are called to do something small but significant to help others in their country.

I spent the day driving through rural Limpopo province and happened to meet a legendary South African artist who has made many beautiful sculptures portraying Mandela.

Artist Johannes Maswanganyi at his home in Msengi with one of his famous Madiba sculptures.
Johannes Maswanganyi at his home in Msengi, with one of his famous Madiba sculptures.
Nelson Mandela sculpture by Johannes Maswanganyi
My favorite Mandela sculpture. Johannes’ son Amorous (also an artist) is reflected in the background.

I’ll have more to say about Johannes Maswanganyi in a future post. But the actual purpose of today’s post is to tell you about Andrea’s Little Lung Warmers.

67 Little Lung Warmers for Nelson Mandela Day

A couple of months ago a woman named Andrea asked if I could photograph a project she was working on. Andrea is a knitter and she was making 67 tiny sweaters — Andrea calls them Little Lung Warmers — to donate to charity in honor of Mandela Day. The number 67 is significant for Mandela Day because Mandela served South Africa for 67 years. (Read more here.)

Once the sweaters were finished, Andrea wanted to photograph each one and then donate them to Friends of Tambo Babies. Andrea and I decided to photograph the sweaters in the Wilds, one of Joburg’s prettiest parks.

Rainbow Little Lung Warmer
One of the 67 Little Lung Warmers.

I asked Andrea to explain why she decided to do this project. Here’s what she said:

“Knitting is an addiction of mine and after making many little jackets/waistcoats as gifts there were quite an array of little balls of happiness left over, so in cleaning out my spaces and discovering more and more of them I decided that I would start making ‘scrap’ jerseys…So it became a therapy and an inspiration to the creative side…and then of course another addiction of seeing whether I would actually get to the number 67.

“By the 6th of April 2019 all these little lung warmers were complete. They have been delivered to a very special lady whose mission is Friends of Tambo Babies — they pack little useful goodie bags and deliver them to the new moms and their babies in hospitals on the far East Rand every 2nd Friday, as there are babies that go home wrapped in newspaper…”

I knew this would be a nice project. But nothing could have prepared me for how adorable these sweaters were and how fun it would be to photograph them.

67 sweaters for Nelson Mandela Day
All 67 sweaters.

I can’t post all 67 photos as that would be ridiculous. But here are a few of my favorites.

Also here is a collage of all 67. I’m quite proud of myself for figuring out how to make it.

I’m guessing that after I publish this there will be lots of people wanting to order their own Little Lung Warmers from Andrea. I don’t think she’s doing that yet but I’ll let you know if (hopefully when) that changes. I think Andrea has a book in the works too. [UPDATE! Actually there is a place where you can order one of Andrea’s tiny sweaters. Click here:]

Happy Mandela Day.


  1. pkadams

    The tiny sweaters are amazing! What a wonderful woman. 🙂 And good job on the collage.

  2. stargazer076

    Adorable! What a brilliant idea! And such a fitting post for Mandela Day!

  3. Peggy Laws

    Those sweaters are just adorable!! Lovely blog.

  4. Peter

    I think you might be well on your way to becoming one of South – Africa’s top Ambassador’s

  5. AutumnAshbough

    Those are adorable. Especially the rainbows. And the idea of a national day of giving is even better. (It would certainly make a nice change of pace from the “screw you, I’ve got mine” mentality the U.S. is exhibiting so very much of recently.

    • 2summers

      This is true. Unfortunately I have a feeling we’ll never have another Mandela in the world ????

  6. Lani



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