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Yiull Damaso commenced “The Night Watch” at the beginning of 2010 after months of discussions regarding South Africa’s politics. It was painted over a period of 7 months.


On 9th July 2010, midway through the painting, the Mail & Guardian published an image of it on their front page, which was the beginning of a roller coaster ride. This image of the work was used extensively worldwide and so very few, if any, photos of the completed work appear anywhere.


During the next two weeks, the unfinished painting appeared in all of South Africa’s major publications as well as international publications The New York Times, The LA Times, Corriere della Sera, France 24, BBC, CNN amongst others. The painting was also featured in a few documentaries locally and in Germany.


Over the next few years the painting and the discussions around it were explored academically at both secondary and tertiary level within South Africa.


“A Symbolic act of autopsy thus gets externalized as a series of questions about the nation, and Mandela’s body becomes a complex site of interplay between private body and public narrative.” (Barnard,R. 2014)


“The Night Watch!” is the title of another Rembrandt painting and is the basis of the idea behind this painting. It asks the question – “While we are sleeping or attending to our everyday lives, who is running the system, the machine that is South Africa?” said Damaso, the politicians and systems in place are, they are our “Night Watch” and they have the power to move South Africa in certain directions.

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