The Arts

February 27, 2020

‘Mandela, My Life: The Official exhibition’ opens in South Africa


Late Nelson Mandela

Late Nelson Mandela

By Japhet Davidson, with agency report

DURING Nelson Mandela’s post-presidential years, he spent part of his life establishing institutions and organisations that would help in the fight against poverty, against injustice and help secure a more just and equitable society. The other parts were spent pulling the ears of world leaders, celebrated personalities, and leaders of business to support the work of transformation and nation-building.

Recently, the Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted the official South African launch of ‘MANDELA, My Life: The Official Exhibition’ in Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton City, in partnership with Richmark Holdings and TEG Live.

Also read: Remain Worthy Ambassadors of Peace and Unity – Mandela Obasi tells Women

MANDELA, My Life:  The Official Exhibition, is a world-class exhibition on Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life, in collaboration with The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Richmark Holdings.

A century on from his birth, this exhibition poetically and emotively explores the personal and public life of one of the most influential men in modern history.

A rich selection of rare personal artefacts, film footage and documents, combined with newly created audio-visual pieces form the heart of the exhibition and offer an insight into the world that shaped Mandela’s life and journey. The launch was attended by members of the Mandela family, Ndileka Mandela and Makaziwe Mandela-Amuah, Struggle Stalwarts such as Trevor Manuel, trustees of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, media veterans Dan Moyane and Derek Watts, celebrated personalities such as John Smit, Letshego Zulu and Thebe Ikalafeng, as well as captains of industry. The evening was serenaded by Zolani Mahola and the internationally acclaimed Soweto Gospel Choir singing   ‘Asimbonanga’, originally composed by Johnny Clegg.

Although the night was attended by high profile and influential members of society, it was no reason to avoid heated and uncomfortable political discussion.

The official exhibition, in Sandton City until July, begins with a series of large paintings by John Meyer, one of the hills, presumably in the Eastern Cape, where three young boys are seen running through rays of sunshine and blades of tall grass. The entrance engulfs the viewer, enabling them to fully immerse themselves in what is about to be an excellently curated narrative of Nelson Mandela. The first gallery invites viewers to feel the power and emotion of one of the most dramatic and significant moments of Mandela’s life – the moment he puts Apartheid on trial, supported by the original recording of Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia Trial speech in 1964 and illustrative depictions of the courtroom as Mandela deliver his speech.

The second gallery explores Mandela’s family life and narrates his journey from childhood to elder through a spectacular seven-metre-long scenic projection wall of animations and landscapes. Elements of Mandela’s childhood are brought to life in an audio-visual piece that uses Mandela’s own words and images of his childhood homes in the Transkei.

The third gallery explores the influences that shaped Mandela’s theory of mind, presented through original artefacts, documents and film extract that allow visitors to delve into the early life of Mandela as he established himself in Johannesburg. Personal items include photographs of Mandela with his first wife, Evelyn, and their children as well as his second wife, Winnie. This gallery also examines the means and methods by which Mandela navigated Apartheid and explores how this experience motivated his early political activism.

The ten galleries in total, whose journey lasts one-and-a-half to two hours, are concluded by a painting by John Meyer depicting Mandela the elder, walking back through the same rays of light and blades of tall grass with a cane. As visitors exit the experience, they are welcome to support the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation by purchasing official merchandise, including the exhibition catalogue, memoirs, garments and home accessories. By purchasing this merchandise you are allowing the Nelson Mandela Foundation to continue doing the unfinished work of Nelson Mandela.

‘MANDELA, My Life: The Official Exhibition’ will be on show to the public at Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton City until the 20th of July after which it will move to Cape Town.