Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition at 26 Leake Street Gallery
When you hear the name Nelson Mandela, what usually comes to mind? Legendary peacemaker? African hero? Principal player in the fight against racism and apartheid? It wouldn’t be incorrect to think all of these things. Opening on the centenary of his birth and 19 years after his release from prison, this retrospective is not just a celebration of Mandela’s life after imprisonment, but of the man behind the name.
The only exhibition to be curated in alliance with the Royal House of Mandela, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn and get to know the iconic figure who captivated millions and showed us the meaning of being a peacemaker. Created with much heart, the show was spearheaded by his grandson Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela and Zelda la Grange, who worked with the subject for 19 years during his presidency, through to his death in 2013.
The exhibition begins with the story of Mandela’s early years as a rural farm boy, showcasing Thembu family heirlooms, then taking viewers through his life’s struggle during apartheid as an activist and lawyer. Next comes the most famous part of his life, within prison walls on Robben Island as inmate 46664, this segment documenting the suffering endured and detailing the life he led. The latter end of the retrospective focuses on Mandela’s journey to freedom, how he healed a nation in pain, became a leader and continued to inspire until his last days. To honour the UK for its hand in bringing the legendary man freedom through fundraising and a call for justice, a special section has been created to highlight this relatively unknown part of history.
Throughout, one can see items that Mandela held dear and which saw him through his life, letters that brought him comfort and even the white lion skin that covered his coffin. This a much more personal and interactive exhibition than others that have tried to details the great man’s life, in that not only was it created to educate but to restart the conversation around how we can do our part in becoming a force for justice and what is right – even within our own small worlds and communities.
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is designed to make one see how the experiences its subject faced, the things he tried to teach those around and how he impacted the world still hold much power, especially in today’s world of injustice, struggle and indifference.
When asked what impact he hoped the exhibition would have, Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela responded, “as well as being inspiring and educational, it is a call to action… that inspiration must invoke in you a sense of action and accountability… People who oppress human rights, operate against peace and advocate injustice must be held to account.”
Amaliah S Marmon-Halm
Photos: Ewa Ferdynus
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is at 26 Leake Street Gallery from 8th February until 2nd June 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.