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Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition - Leake Street

Photograph © Peter Morey

Exhibition preview

LAWYER. Revolutionary. Political prisoner. World leader. Elder statesman. Symbol of the struggle against oppression. Nelson Mandela has been all these things to so many people across the world in the past 50 years and five years after his passing, he continues to remain a human rights icon and to be seen globally as an advocate for change.

Now a major new exhibition, Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition, celebrating his life and legacy makes its World Premiere at 26 Leake Street, where it will be on display from February 8 to June 2, 2019.

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is designed to educate, entertain and inspire using many personal belongings and objects never previously seen outside of South Africa.

These items – including the suit worn for the opening of the South African parliament in 1996; a traditional head dress gifted to him by The King of Xhosa people, King Xolilzwe Sigcawu as he awarded Mandela the ancient tribal warrior honour of the Isithwalandwe Sesizwe, for the first time in two centuries; his presidential desk and chair and his much loved iconic beige trench coat – combine with immersive media presentations and scenic re-creations, to enable visitors to actively engage with and experience key moments in Nelson Mandela’s life.

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition reveals his epic story in a series of experiential zones. It takes visitors on Mandela’s life journey, from his little-known beginnings in rural Mvezo, Transkei, through decades of turbulent struggle against the apartheid regime, to his eventual vindication and final years as South Africa’s first black president, ‘Father of South Africa’, and a globally loved and respected figure.

Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela says of today’s announcement:

“The Royal House of Mandela is delighted to endorse this exhibition honouring the life and legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as it truly captures the spirit of our global icon whose name has become synonymous with international solidarity, justice and peace. It succeeds in quintessentially depicting the man and the legend whose struggle and sacrifice has captivated the hearts and minds of millions around the world. This exhibition is truly an inspiration and an inspired effort; I believe that everyone who sees it will agree that the legacy lives on and that the dream will never die.

“London and the United Kingdom more broadly was home to many South African exiles and activists in the anti-apartheid struggle. In the 1980s and ‘90s Trafalgar Square and South Africa House was the scene of many a picket and protest action and this news found its way to Mandela in his cell, either in encoded messages, by word of mouth and in the latter years, via news clippings. It was therefore no surprise that Madiba chose London as one of the first cities outside Africa to visit as a free man after his 27-year incarceration. I can say without the slightest doubt that Madiba would have given his stamp of approval to staging this exhibition in London.”

Lizzy Moriarty, Exhibition Advisor to Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition said:

“It is only once in a professional lifetime that a chance comes along to work on an exhibition of such magnitude, with objects which tell such a powerful story so relevant to our times. The exhibition is unusual in that it gives people the chance to get close to the man himself, as a family man, as an activist and as the peacemaker of his time.

“Many of the objects in the exhibition come from his house and have never been catalogued or curated before. They accompanied him through his life and through them, we can speak of his extraordinary life and his contribution to reconciliation. It will be like wandering through his life with him guiding you and asking you what you would have done in the same situation.”

Nelson Mandela’s story has been told many times before, not least of all by the man himself in his own words. So, what makes Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition different? The exhibition features unique insights from across the spectrum – from close family, friends and others who admired him from afar. Personal artefacts and other material also reveal the deeper stories behind the headlines and bring us closer to the man behind the myth.

Steven Swaby, Narrative Producer concludes: “This unique exhibition goes beyond the well-known ‘Mandela myth’ and reveals the inner stories of a remarkable life lived with remarkable courage, conviction and compassion. It asks us to consider the meaning of Mandela in the here-and-now and explores the complexities of his legacy in a world where inequality and injustice are still a daily fact of life.”

Mounted in collaboration with the Royal House of Mandela and the Mvezo Development Trust, Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is presented in celebration of the 100th year of his birth and to honour the 5th year of his passing.

Official Website.

Image: Nelson Mandela – The Official Exhibition. Photograph © Peter Morey (www.petermoreyphotographic.co.za).

Tickets: by phone on 0844 453 9094 or online at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/.

Venue: 26 Leake Street, South Bank, London, SE1 7NN (nearest Tube Waterloo).