Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mandela 100

Michael - Thursday

Nelson Mandela returns to Robben Island after being elected
president of South Africa
So much has been written about Nelson Mandela that it seems redundant to add anything more. Pat and I went to the FotoZA exhibition of photographs for the hundredth anniversary of his birth with some reservations. But how could one not allow oneself to be reminded of this life of commitment to a cause and to justice that had to take precedence over everything else, including his own needs and desires and those of his family? There would be no compromise – until it allowed him to move to his ultimate goal.

The exhibition gives few new perspectives, yet pulls us once again into the life of this extraordinary man who spent nearly thirty years in prison yet held to his principles, and then – harder still – spent five years as president of South Africa and still never compromised them.

Two feature of the exhibition struck us - unexpected amongst the flood of bitter pictures. The most moving was a display of the calendars that he was allowed in his prison cell. Year after year with notes, appointments and comments. Just before he was transferred to Victor Verster prison in Paarl and then released, he noted scarily high blood pressures. But most of the annotations referred to precious visits and meetings that the authorities dealt out like scraps to a dog. As the years passed, they became more frequent, yet every one was a cherished connection to the outside world.

The second was a display of posters from around the world calling for his release, the release of all South Africa's political prisoners, and for the abolition of apartheid. Most are from European countries sympathetic at the time to the ANC, and many are lithographs - crude by modern standards - yet their message is strong across the years.

It was a very moving experience. Anyone who is able to see it should jump at the opportunity.

Hard labour in prison.
A less serious poster - the makeover
Artist's impression of Mandela before he was released.
There had been no photographs of him for many years.
Mandela's letters from prison. A new comprehensive collection offers many insights.
From: The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela


Out in the UK next week!
Already available as an ebook since Tuesday.


  1. Michael, oh, I wish I could see the exhibition. I continue to find Mandela wondrous, beyond belief. My favorite image of him is one I saw in a film at the Apartheid Museum in Soweto- standing in a convertible, riding around a stadium, with that beatific smile. He looked more archangel than human, as he seems to me. But the great thing is that he was a human being, a shining example of what a member of our species can be!

  2. I agree with, Sis. Michael. For so many of us Mandela exists in our thoughts as a spiritual inspiration, much like Gandhi, more so than as a living soul who experienced so much to achieve so much more for so many. Thanks for reminding us of what mortals with commitment still can achieve.

  3. Indeed. But not without great cost to themselves.