Nelson Mandela Foundation

On 2 March, the Nelson Mandela Foundation in collaboration with Loughborough University hosted a workshop titled “Exploring Madiba’s Graphic Heritage”. Nelson Mandela continues to be memorialised in different ways all over the world. The workshop highlighted new insights from the Memorialising Mandela in the Metropolis project at Loughborough University, exploring the relationship between toponomy, graphic images, cultural heritage and placemaking in locations named after Nelson Mandela.

Dr Robert Harland, working with Dr Yolandi Burger and Dr Everardt Burger, introduced the workshop by giving an overview of the term “graphic heritage” by breaking the term down. The “graphic” in graphic heritage refers to graphic images which can be abstract, architectural or representational. It can also refer to designs, pictures, statues or structures that visually tell the story of space. 

Borrowing from Waterton and Watson (2015), the “heritage” in graphic heritage “is a version of the past received through objects and display, representations and engagements, spectacular locations and events, memories and commemorations, and the preparation of places for cultural purposes and consumption”.

Presenters at the workshop included academics and photographers that worked closely on the research project with Drs Yolandi and Everardt Burger and Dr Harland, including Celeste McKenzie, Alet Pretorius, Fidel Mosupye, Ts'episo Mahooe, Siboniso Bophela and Nkululeka Mthembu.

Questions that arose from the workshop included: Who is heritage for? Who gets to decide what is work memorialising and how? What is the proper purpose of power and politics regarding graphic heritage? How do the communities where these are located interact, understand and access information or resources on the memorialised subject?

In a country like South Africa with many memorials erected in memory of Nelson Mandela, graphic heritage is an important part of people’s daily lives. The workshop helped kickstart critical reflections on the graphic legacy of Madiba.