Exhibition celebrating life and legacy of Nelson Mandela opens in London
Lawyer. Revolutionary. Political prisoner. World leader. Elder statesman. Symbol of the struggle against oppression. Nelson Mandela has been all these things to so many people across the world in the past 50 years. Now five years after his death, he continues to remain a human rights icon, seen globally as an advocate for change.
Ongoing celebrations of the centenary of his birth continue with a major new exhibition, Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition, which opens at London's Waterloo on Friday (8th February) in London.
The show, at 26 Leake Street celebrates Mandela’s life and legacy. It is designed to educate, entertain and inspire using many personal belongings and objects never previously seen outside of South Africa. These include the suit worn for the opening of the South African parliament in 1996; a traditional head dress gifted by The King of Xhosa people; his presidential desk and chair and his much-loved beige trench coat.
There are also immersive media presentations and scenic re-creations, portraying key moments in Nelson Mandela’s life. The exhibition which is presented in collaboration with the Royal House of Mandela, reveals his epic story in a series of experiential zones.
It takes visitors on Mandela’s life journey, from his little-known beginnings in rural Mvezo, Transkei, through decades of turbulent struggle against the apartheid regime, to his eventual vindication and final years as South Africa’s first black president, ‘Father of South Africa’, and a globally loved and respected figure.
Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela commented:
“The Royal House of Mandela is delighted to endorse this exhibition honouring the life and legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as it truly captures the spirit of our global icon whose name has become synonymous with international solidarity, justice and peace.
“It succeeds in quintessentially depicting the man and the legend whose struggle and sacrifice has captivated the hearts and minds of millions around the world.”
He pointed out that London and the United Kingdom more broadly was home to many South African exiles and activists in the anti-apartheid struggle.
“In the 1980s and ‘90s Trafalgar Square and South Africa House was the scene of many a picket and protest action and this news found its way to Mandela in his cell, either in encoded messages, by word of mouth and in the latter years, via news clippings. It was therefore no surprise that Madiba chose London as one of the first cities outside Africa to visit as a free man after his 27-year incarceration. I can say without the slightest doubt that Madiba would have given his stamp of approval to staging this exhibition in London.”
Steven Swaby, the show’s Narrative Producer added: “This unique exhibition goes beyond the well-known 'Mandela myth' and reveals the inner stories of a remarkable life lived with remarkable courage, conviction and compassion. It asks us to consider the meaning of Mandela in the here-and-now and explores the complexities of his legacy in a world where inequality and injustice are still a daily fact of life.”
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition runs at the 26 Leake Street Gallery at Waterloo’s historic Leake Street Graffiti Tunnels from Friday 8th February to Sunday 2nd June. A donation will be made from proceeds to the Mvezo Development Trust which supports economic development programmes in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.