Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow became the first African to be accepted into France's Academy of Fine Arts, an honor he dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
In a ceremony Wednesday in Paris, the 78-year-old artist dedicated his acceptance to "all of Africa ... and the great man Nelson Mandela," the BBC reported.
A minute of silence was held during the ceremony for the former South African leader, who died Dec. 5.
Sow, known for his larger-than-life sculptures of wrestling, spent about 20 years living in France, where he earned a degree in physiotherapy. He eventually returned to his home country, where he created the series of muscular Nouba wrestler sculptures, as well as series featuring the Battle of Little Big Horn, as well as black leaders and figures Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Mandela, who he said helped him "not despair of mankind."
Sow has moved all his works to a museum he is building in Senegal, the BBC said.