Nelson Mandela Foundation

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One of the Zapiro cartoons depicting Nelson Mandela on the Africartoons website

February 9, 2010 – February 11, 2010, marks the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. As one of modern history’s most famous leaders, his career has, for decades, been the subject of many an editorial cartoon.

To mark the occasion, Africartoons has launched an online exhibition, Mandela: Twenty Years of Freedom, which features highlights of Mr Mandela’s career since his release, by South Africa’s best-known cartoonists.

Exhibition curator, John Curtis, an editorial cartoonist whose work also appears in the gallery, said, “The idea behind creating a virtual gallery is to make the exhibition as accessible as possible to the greatest number of people, although this does not preclude the possibility of a physical exhibition in the future.”

The exhibition displays 24 cartoons by 16 South African cartoonists, among them Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro), Dov Fedler, Chips Snaddon, Yalo (Sifiso Yalo), and South Africa’s only female editorial cartoonist, Stent (Stacey Stent).

Reading chronologically, an interesting narrative emerges; of how the cartoonists’ caricatures of Mr Mandela evolved, from when his image was banned by the apartheid regime, to the day of his release, and after.

The cartoons cover his release, negotiations for a democratic settlement, his travels, inauguration and presidency, his HIV/AIDS activism, the exploitation of his name, and finally, his status as a loved and respected leader.

The exhibition can be viewed online.

Curtis said it is hoped the project, an initiative between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Africartoons, will lead to a series of exhibitions that take a broader view of his life, and to the establishment of a library of cartoons featuring Mr Mandela.

Cartoonists from around the world have been invited to contribute published works that feature Mr Mandela.