Iziko Museums of South Africa celebrated the International Mandela Day centenary conversation in July 2018 with the launch of Tata Madiba: Father of our democracy, Father of our nation at the Iziko South African Museum. The centenary commemorated the birth of uTata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, (Ah! Dalibhunga) – a leader, comrade, negotiator, prisoner and statesman – one of Africa’s most prolific and iconic leaders.
Recognised across the globe as both a symbol of sacrifice and beacon of hope, Madiba’s life lessons are part of our cultural heritage – constituting a national treasure that we must conserve and share for future generations. Madiba was a leader, icon and symbol of the nation, whose long walk to freedom became synonymous with our history. He was also known for his humility and sense of collective leadership. He made full use of the ‘weapons’ at his disposal: love, persuasion, forgiveness and acute political acumen – with a fair amount of self-deprecating humour.
Nelson Mandela was not only central to South Africa’s epic struggle against apartheid – his role in helping build a new nation from the fragments of our conflicted histories, his fearless pursuit of the dream of democracy and a non-racial society in order to create a better life for all, is a legacy that must be valued. The upgraded exhibition brings together objects, specimens and artworks to stimulate conversation about Madiba’s life, struggles and legacy.
This multidisciplinary exhibition pays tribute to Nelson Mandela as an instrumental catalyst of change, a warrior against apartheid and advocate of social cohesion. Madiba’s extraordinary contribution in terms of the protection of South Africa’s rich biodiversity; including the many species named after him and those he and his fellow prisoners may have encountered on Robben Island, are also featured.
A focal point of this exhibition is the iMadiba Project – an artistic recreation of Madiba’s Robben Island cell, conceptualised and created by Stellenbosch-based photographer and artist Erhardt Thiel.
During his incarceration on Robben Island, uTata Madiba cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, one in which all people could live together in harmony without fearing the nature of their differences. The iMadiba Project supports the Nelson Mandela Foundation in its objective of honouring Madiba’s legacy. Based on the actual dimensions of the Robben Island cell where the late president spent most of his 27 years of incarceration, it stands as a literal reminder of our past, and the future we strive to build together. The installation has bars, as the cell did, and its open doorway symbolises a space for dialogue, memory and reflection – inviting conversations in safe spaces.
Individuals are invited to engage with the artwork by using the space as a conversation station. The size of the installation also means that those engaging in the space do so in close proximity, with no barriers, to each other. This call to action is directly aligned with Iziko’s vision to ignite conversations and connections within museum exhibitions.
Tata Madiba: Father of our democracy, Father of our nation serves as a vehicle to engender a positive legacy through dialogue, memory, reflection and forward thinking. Strengthening our democracy requires consistent, continued and collective commitment from citizens. In naming the conversation station, the words ‘I’ and ‘Madiba’ open our minds to finding ways in which we can emulate his values. The call to ‘Be the Legacy’ is an opportunity for each of us to make small individual changes that can collectively have a significant impact in accelerating the change required to fight inequality and poverty and improve the lives of the people.
To view the Tata Madiba tribute booklet online click HERE