Mandela, however, disengaged himself with the country's politics fairly successfully over the last decade. But he remains almost a talisman for racial reconciliation, with one artist in India feeling so strongly about Mandela's health that he sculpted his face out of sand on a beach on Sunday in the town of Puri. Near the face, he wrote out in sand: "Get well soon."
That's a wish that's been repeatedly broadcast across television and radio stations in South Africa, printed in newspaper headlines and whispered as prayers in recent days for the increasingly frail icon.
Associated Press writer Thomas Phakane in Pretoria, South Africa, contributed to this report.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.