Nelson Mandela Foundation

Exhibitions

The exhibition will trace Madiba’s life through the way in which he so carefully constructed his image – or how, at times, others constructed an image for him. This story will be told in a number of "chapters", each representing a particular assumption of image and identity through the clothes he wore and the names he was given, or took on: Rolihlahla, Dalibhunga, Nelson, Mr Mandela, Comrade, Black Pimpernel, David, Accused Number 1, Prisoner 46664, Mr President, Tata, Khulu – and possibly others.

By exploring the different forces at play in Madiba’s life – internal and external, deliberate and unconscious – we want to portray the complexity of the man and the complexities and competing demands of the world he was born into.

In every chapter there will be the main ‘thread’, but also an ‘unthreading’: taking the particular story that is told and looking at the alternative narrative, the story behind the story. What was Madiba thinking? What was he grappling with? If his image at that particular point was a construct, what was he not showing? What was he not saying? How did he see himself?

Each chapter will therefore consist of a name, an image, a quote, a brief contextualisation of the name and the particular period of his life, a crafted object, and an ‘unthreading’ of his identity.

The ‘unthreading’ will be in the form of a ‘big’, provocative question in each chapter that invites visitors to the exhibition to ponder the matter and to give open-ended answers.   

The deconstruction seeks to give the visitor a fresh take on Madiba, with each individual weaving their own relationship with him in the engagement through question and answer.

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Gallery: Unthreading Madiba

The exhibition will trace Madiba’s life through the way in which he so carefully constructed his image – or how, at times, others constructed an image for him.