The newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex are opening a special exhibition in London to celebrate the centenary of Nelson Mandela‘s birth. It is being co-organised by Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum and includes exhibits revealing the extent of the global effort to secure Madiba’s freedom and end apartheid.
Organisers say it also underlines the need to re-engage with the timeless values of justice and freedom he embodied.
The Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition is being held at the Southbank Centre in central London. It is being jointly presented by the centre along with the Apartheid Museum of South Africa and the UK’s Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives.
It celebrates Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life and his long walk to freedom. It also looks at the unique role played by London and the UK as the centre of the international struggle against apartheid.
I caught up with some of the event’s organisers including Lord Peter Hain, the British former cabinet minister and anti-apartheid activist. “The President of the ANC Oliver Tambo lived here and organised from here. Nelson Mandela was of course on Robben Island and other prisons at the time and so we wanted this exhibition, in his centenary year, to demonstrate to the world and especially to the British people, how vital the anti-apartheid struggle was, eventually of course triumphing in the defeat of apartheid and before that the release of Nelson Mandela and his leadership comrades. There’s never been an exhibition before on him in Britain, this in the first one and it’s fantastic.”
Apartheid museum exhibitions and education curator Emilia Potenza says; “The original exhibition was curated in 2008 to mark Mandela’s 90th birthday and since then we’ve done iterations of it in many languages in many different countries and finally it’s come to London. We’re delighted that it’s here to mark the centenary of Mandela’s birth. We have re-worked the exhibition to include material on the anti-apartheid movement in the UK.”
African National Congress politician Pallo Jordan says the anti-apartheid movement in Britain produced important figures. “The British public played a very, very significant role in terms of not only impact on the attitudes of British people but also on the British government specifically. The anti-apartheid movement in Britain was the first solidarity movement in support of the struggle in South Africa and it produced a whole number of very important figures.”
Apartheid Museum Director Christopher Till; “We only have to look at what’s happening in other parts of the world to reflect and should reflect on what Mandela brought to that world as a collective. As he said himself ‘I am not an icon, I’m not an individual, I’m part of a collective’. But the exhibition sets out to underline those messages and bring to the attention of the UK and people in London what Mandela stood for and a how current those values are or should be today.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be officially opening the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition which runs until 19 August. It is free to the public and organisers say they hope many thousands of people will get to come and see it. Paul Barber