News / Arts & Entertainment

Paris Exhibit Captures Mandela's Journey

Paris Exhibit Captures Mandela's Journeyi
X
June 19, 2013 2:54 PM
The fragile health of former South African president Nelson Mandela has been a subject of great concern in recent days. But a new exhibition in Paris takes a step back - looking at Mandela's evolution from political prisoner to one of the world's most beloved and venerated politicians. Produced by the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the show kicks off a year of cultural events in France featuring South Africa. Incidentally, the French capital recently made Mandela an honorary citizen. Lisa Bryant reports for VOA.
Lisa Bryant
The fragile health of former South African president Nelson Mandela has been making headlines in recent days. But a new exhibition in Paris takes a step back -  looking at Mandela's evolution from political prisoner to one of the world's most beloved and respected politicians. Produced by the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the show kicks off a year of cultural events in France featuring South Africa. Incidentally, the French capital recently made Mandela an honorary citizen.

In front of Paris city hall sits a bleak reminder of South Africa's apartheid regime. It's a reproduction of the Robben Island prison cell where Mandela spent 18 years in captivity.

It's part of an exhibition here tracing Mandela's personal and political journey from activist, to prisoner, to his country's first black president. Laurent Clavel, of the Institut Francais, is the General Commissioner of this year’s season of cultural events. He spoke about Mandela’s legacy.

"This exhibition is showing how much Mandela has become a world icon and how much his message and his struggle is universal. This exhibition is a tribute to the legacy that Nelson Mandela is leaving to the world."

It's a legacy marked by amazing achievements, but also by loneliness and loss, starting with Mandela's childhood in the eastern Cape region. His father died when he was nine.

When Mandela was 23, he escaped from an arranged marriage and went to Johannesburg. He earned a law degree and joined the African National Congress, becoming a leader in the campaign against apartheid. In the early 1960s, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. Clavel compared how Mandela’s personal story was linked to that of South Africa.

"During his days, his years in jail, he went through a personal journey. He became someone who has promoted reconciliation, peace and liberty for everybody. And this exhibition [reflects] that, because you go through all these different steps understanding the journeys that Nelson Mandela has been through and understanding how Nelson Mandela's story is profoundly linked to South Africa's story."

For Mauritanian Faty Sow, who wandered through the exhibition with her husband, Mandela keeps African dreams alive.

Sow said what Mandela stands for is immense. It's not only his personality, but also his image as a father, as standing for liberty. It's about everything for her. 

The exhibition looks at Mandela's transformation into a hero and icon. But it also explores his weaknesses - like his tendency to be autocratic and his slowness with which he reacted to South Africa AIDS threat. Clavel said that it also traces France's own evolution in its relations with South Africa.

"France at one stage was doing business with the apartheid government, regarding arms, for instance. And when France was not totally against the apartheid, And also when France became a leader in the struggle against apartheid. France has been very instrumental in implementing the boycott, the economic boycott, cultural boycott against apartheid, and we know the effect of that."

For French exhibit visitor Xenian Uruty, Mandela's struggle for equality also resonates in France.

Uruty said racism is more subtle and less violent in France than it was in South Africa and, perhaps, the United States. But the path to equality is a long one here, as well.

Mandela’s health may be fading, but to many in Paris, as in South Africa, his legacy seems to be very much alive.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.