Nelson Mandela Foundation

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The Nelson Mandela Foundation is partnering with the German GIZ Global Leadership Academy which is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to bring together 26 participants from 10 countries to engage in a series of three dialogues on memory work, the Mandela Dialogues.

The first dialogue was hosted in South Africa in November 2013; the second will take place in Cambodia between 5-8 March 2014; and the final meeting in Berlin in July 2014.

The participants are activists, analysts and functionaries from Argentina, Bosnia, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Kenya, Serbia, South Africa and Uruguay.

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Despite their different national contexts, experiences and professions, the participants share with the two convening organisations a sense of having reached an impasse in their personal and professional capacities – a sense of there being more questions than answers about memory work.

They share a common desire to grapple with the difficult questions they face in their daily practice, and to learn from each other.

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While the lines of inquiry that emerged from the first dialogue emphasise the strains and tensions in memory work, what is equally evident is a powerful shared vision – namely, that memory work should be geared to preventing a recurrence of past conflict, injustice or oppression; and to making a future that the next generation will regard as worth the labours that will have gone into its creation.

In locating the dialogues in three countries with very different pasts, and approaches to dealing with the past, the convening organisations seek to offer participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in each country and engage with a diversity of experience.

Through immersion the participants are offered a chance to reflect both on the similarities and differences between these contexts and their own regional, national and local experiences.

In doing so, it is expected that the difficult, perhaps yet even unidentified, global questions about memory work will emerge.

In South Africa the immersion was provided by opportunities to engage South Africans and to see or visit a range of spaces, landscapes and memory sites: the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Centre of Memory, Nelson Mandela’s Alexandra and Johannesburg homes, Alexandra township (Johannesburg), the Cradle of Humankind, the Sterkfontein caves, the Voortrekker Monument (Pretoria) and Freedom Park (Pretoria).

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The dialogue concluded at the NMF’s Centre of Memory, with a formal interaction between the 26 participants and a group of 13 South Africans offering a broad range of perspectives.