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

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."