21 ICONS – Albie Sachs

Behind the scenes of photographer Adrian Steirn's regal portrait of the former Constitutional Court judge.

Albie Sachs, former Constitutional Court judge and anti-Apartheid activist, stands astride a giant boulder where Cape Town's Clifton beach meets the sea, his arm outstretched to hold a giant South African flag that billows in the wind above him. His face catches the light of the sun as it breaks over the slope of Signal Hill beyond. He is proud, regal, in control.

This is the moment that photographer Adrian Steirn captures for the second season of his 21 ICONS series, which debuted in City Press newspaper last Sunday, 10 August.

In this behind-the-scenes film, which premiered on SABC 3 the same day, Sachs reflects on his involvement in the struggle against Apartheid and the sacrifice he made when he was almost killed in a car bomb attack.

His vision for a reconciled country is rooted in South Africa’s Constitution, which he helped write. “We come from very different backgrounds, different life experiences, different philosophies, different worldviews,” Sachs says, “and what we need then is not a clash between the worldviews with the one triumphing over the other – you need a dialogue, an interaction, a coexistence.”

The idea behind the portrait, explains Steirn, “was to take a man who’d sacrificed, who’d lost a part of himself physically and emotionally with a view to seeing a whole South Africa, a democratic South Africa come together”.

Sachs is proud of the country’s flag. “It’s a little bit crazy. It’s got six colours,” he notes. “It represented the triumph of humanity, the will to find a common basis for living together in one country. In that sense it’s a glorious flag.”