New coins celebrate 25 years of freedom

Artist Neo Mahlangu has designed two of the new R2 coins.
Artist Neo Mahlangu has designed two of the new R2 coins.

Neo Mahlangu had no idea that she would end up designing SA's commemorative R2 coins when she decided to leave her sales job and pursue a career in arts a few years ago.

Mahlangu, 26, who spoke to Sowetan yesterday, is one of five young artists who were selected to design commemorative coins to mark 25 years of democracy in SA.

"I was not expecting something as big as the coin thing to happen. I'm very honoured to have been part of something that celebrates and commemorates our country," she said.

The coins were launched on Wednesday by the SA Mint, a subsidiary of the South African Reserve Bank. For the first time in the history of the country, members of the public, particularly those born within the democratic dispensation, participated in developing themes for the designs.

Mahlangu designed two of five R2 coins which were themed around the right to education and children's rights.

She said the inspiration for the children's rights coin was to make sure that the design reflected the different ages and races of children in SA.

Mahlangu said the right to education coin featured images of a graduation cap and a building block to show that all levels of education are important. "The topic for both coins is things that are fundamental to building a successful country," she said.

Born in GaRankuwa, in Tshwane, Mahlangu studied medical sciences after matriculating at the Charlton Vos College in 2009. She has two older siblings.

She then worked as a sales support specialist in the health sector before deciding to quit about three years ago to pursue a career in arts.

Mahlangu, who works independently while doing design projects for several companies, said working on the commemorative coins proved to her that "going into the arts was the best decision".

She said seeing the samples of the coins for the first time after seven months of intense work was an overwhelming experience.

"I couldn't believe it. There are no words to describe the experience," she said.

The three other R2 coins were designed by Maaike Bakker and Peter Mammes. Lady Skollie, a feminist born Laura Windvogel, was tasked with designing the R5 based on a line from the national anthem which states, "Let us live and strive for freedom".

The R2 coins will be available later this month, while the R5 coin will only be circulation later this year.

SA Mint managing director Tumi Tsehlo said the unique perspectives from the youth and the Bill of Rights informed the designs.

"I believe we have an excellent set of coins befitting this momentous occasion in our lives, which will also serve to remind us of our rights and responsibilities toward our constitutional democracy."

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