Nelson Mandela Foundation

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Memory work is pivotal to the activities of the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF). When launching the NMF nearly 20 years ago, Madiba noted ‘Memory is a vital force in the life of people and nations and can help unite divided societies. My Foundation will continue to bring people together, providing a safe space, especially for those who disagree, to listen and talk to each other.’ In his view and built into the praxis of the NMF, is to tie memory with dialogue.

On 6 December 2018, award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will commemorate the passing of Nelson Mandela in a keynote address on the power of memory and public imagination in their local, continental and global manifestations.

In remembering, there is a need to consider how histories have shaped and reshaped our understanding of how societies developed and how they collectively imagine visions of the future. At the same time, these histories often account for the power differentials that exist within societies and the maintenance of an unjust status quo. As Madiba said of South Africa, "The history of our country is characterised by too much forgetting. A forgetting which served the powerful and dispossessed the weak."

Thus memory should not focus on congratulatory or commemorative acts, but rather should serve as a public resource for social justice and liberatory futures. In remembering Madiba, we think not only of the present and the past but of the battles that lie ahead.

Therefore, investing in archival work and commemorating the passing of Madiba, is premised on the notion that there is something in remembering that is important that extends beyond the past but to the present and the future. To help reflect upon this and to commemorate the passing of Madiba, the questions that we would like Ms Adichie to explore are as follows:

  • What is it in remembering that is important?
  • How do we reckon with history?
  • If we consider history as a collective imagining, how do we find versions that include the marginalised?
  • What is the personal significance of Madiba to you?
  • Do we sometimes need to forget to find liberation?

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