Artist Punches Wall 27,000 Times in Honor of Nelson Mandela

Artist Phil Akashi married art and boxing when he created a stunning tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Art and boxing don't often intersect. But Belgian-born Shanghai-based artist Phil Akashi married these two subjects when he created a stunning tribute to Nelson Mandela—using boxing gloves and traditional Chinese ink paste. Punching a wall 27,000 times with the characters 自由/"Freedom," the artist produced the homage when Mandela was hospitalized and in critical condition, before he passed away last year.

To actually paint the portrait, which is located at Shanghai Graffiti Park, Akashi used Cinnabar paste, often seen in Taoist culture. He thought about using red paste, which is regarded as the color of life and eternity, but opted for black instead to honor Mandela’s struggle against apartheid. On his website, Akashi elaborated on the project: “This artwork exemplifies Nelson Mandela’s 27 years of incarceration but also symbolizes his lifelong brave stand for freedom and equality. Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary artist of peace. He sacrificed his own freedom to fight for the freedom of others and therefore represents a fantastic source of inspiration for the entire world.”

Surrounded by local graffiti, this subtle yet powerful portrait stands out and represents the notion of freedom and equality for all.

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