News / Arts & Entertainment

South Africa Opens New Mandela Exhibit

From Left: Mandla Mandela, grandson of former president Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, wife of Mandela, and president Jacob Zuma attend the opening of the revamped Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, Nov. 18, 2013.
From Left: Mandla Mandela, grandson of former president Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, wife of Mandela, and president Jacob Zuma attend the opening of the revamped Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, Nov. 18, 2013.
Anita Powell
Officials in South Africa have opened the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, just 11 days before the South Africa premiere of a Hollywood film based on the life of the anti-apartheid icon.  Mandela is now 95 and homebound because of health problems, but officials say he has much to teach his nation, and the world.  

The Nelson Mandela Foundation unveiled the new exhibit of Mandela’s life to a veritable who’s who of South Africa.  

Current President Jacob Zuma lauded the man who overturned South Africa’s apartheid government and became the first black president in 1994.  Top politicians and diplomats praised him; singers belted out tunes in his honor; and members of Mandela’s family said they were touched by the attention.

The airy, modern new space presents a variety of artifacts, from the impressive to the banal, the official to the personal.  Photos show Mandela at most stages of his life - from a uniformed schoolboy to a confident young lawyer, from longtime prisoner to president.

Visitors may also learn a few intimate details about the man who has been so extensively written about.  

For example, after his release from prison, where he spent 27 years for his opposition to apartheid, he not only spoke optimistically, he literally doused himself in optimism.  One of the pieces on exhibit is a half-used bottle of CK One cologne - a fitting choice, considering the fresh, citrusy scent was revolutionary, in that it was one of the most successful unisex scents ever.  

Visitors will see a replica of his immaculately neat office, pore over letters he wrote in his tiny, dense handwriting, and gaze upon his Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in 1993 for bringing an end to the racist system of government.

But perhaps what is more interesting is kept underground at the center, thousands upon thousands of documents, written by and about Mandela and this critical period of South African history.  Conservationists and researchers are working constantly to save these documents and include them in the historical record.

During the ceremony, Mandela’s grandson Mandla praised the effort.

“For me particularly as a member of the family, and many members of the family, this is an emotional moment for us, because we are seeing the preservation of my grandfather’s legacy for future generations," he said. "For me, in person, my grandfather has always been the magnet, the unifying factor around us as a family, and it is one thing for me that today, we see people from all walks of life unifying, coming together in his honor, in the realization of his legacy."

President Zuma praised the man who he followed and admired as an aspiring politician.  Several of the photos of Mandela on display show in the background a young, bearded and surprisingly hirsute Zuma, who today is bald.

Zuma said Mandela taught his nation a valuable lesson.  Like many South Africans, Zuma referred to Mandela by his clan name, Madiba.  

“It is in Tata Madiba that the humanist value of Ubuntu, which teach us that ‘I am because you are,’ continue to find expression," he said. "It was Tata Madiba who led us in the important program of reconciliation and reaching out to one another. It is from him and his generation that we were reminded once more that; what unites us far outweighs that which divides us; that humanity is one and that our destiny is linked."

Centre of Memory Director Sello Hatang says he hopes the new center and upcoming film will show Mandela is a complicated man.  He said the movie managed to capture that well.

“Madiba is a difficult character, he is complex.  And they managed to capture his complexity," he said. "And we believe that the movie will at least open other windows into the life and times of Nelson Mandela, which were never opened before.  And this includes his flaws, because one of the things we tend to do is to want to treat Madiba as a deity, that he is perfect, that he has no flaws.  And here is a man who actually demonstrates that he also has flaws, and he helps us realize that we can also be human through, we can do extraordinary things being just us, human beings."

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is free to the public, but is only open by appointment.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."