(CNN) -- When South Africans open their wallets, they will be greeted by images of a smiling Nelson Mandela in various denominations.
This week, the nation launched banknotes featuring a picture of the former president and anti-apartheid icon on the front. The back of the banknotes retains images of the Big Five animals.
Big Five --- lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard -- refer to the most celebrated animals in African game reserves.
"Our currency is a unique symbol of our nationhood, with many of us handling banknotes every day," said Gill Marcus, the Reserve Bank governor . "The Reserve Bank is proud to be able to honor South Africa's struggle icon and first democratically elected president in this way."
Before the launch, a public awareness campaign helped familiarize citizens with the new bills, Marcus said in a statement.
Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate, spent 27 years in prison for fighting against racial segregation in South Africa. He became the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed from prison.
Though he has not appeared in public for years, he retains popularity for his role in reconciling a country torn apart by apartheid.
The new 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rand banknotes will co-exist with the current bills as legal tender.