Unthreading Madiba, deepening his legacy

Nelson Mandela Foundation Chairman Prof. Njabulo Ndebele speaking at the launch of Unthreading Madiba. (Image: NMF)

Nelson Mandela means different things to different people – this is the underlying theme of a new exhibition launched by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on 5 December 2017.

“Interpretations of Madiba abound, as they should,” said Foundation Chairman Prof. Njabulo Ndebele at the launch of Unthreading Madiba on Tuesday night.

The exhibition can be seen at the Foundation’s Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton, Johannesburg.

“The meaning of Nelson Mandela remains wonderfully personal,” Ndebele said. “For all of us here, there is a connection to Madiba.”

The launch was the Foundation’s final large event for 2017, said Ndebele. In 2018 the organisation will be marking the centenary of its founder’s birth – Mandela was born on 18 July 1918, in Mvezo, Eastern Cape.

Remembering Mandela and his legacy to South Africa and the world will be “a big part” of the Foundation’s 2018 programme, but its “most important dimension” will be “the work we do next year that opens out the future”, Ndebele said.

Foundation CE Sello Hatang said 2018 will see the organisation participate in “at least 50” projects aimed at celebrating Mandela’s centenary. “You name it, it’s probably there,” he said of the social issues the projects will tackle.

Projects include a collaboration with the Miagi Youth Orchestra, which seeks to develop South African musicians from disadvantaged backgrounds, and with the South African Reserve Bank and the South African Post Office. Soccer body FIFA wants to dedicate a game to Mandela, and South African horticulturist Keith Kirsten has bred a “Mandela” rose that will be sold worldwide to the benefit of the Foundation.

Other projects include four TV miniseries focusing on different periods of Mandela’s life, and the continued digitisation of the Foundation’s archive of Mandela-related documents and artefacts. Mandela Day – marked on Mandela’s 18 July birthday – will focus on sustainable and measurable projects tackling poverty and inequality.

Speaking at the event, United Democratic Movement President Bantu Holomisa, MP, said when the threads of Mandela’s legacy are pulled together, they encompass reconciliation based on principled compromise, a real commitment to constitutionalism, a commitment to the rule of law, and resilience.

“Investing in these threads is not only a worthwhile exercise for the country as a collective, but also for each individual,” he said.

When Mandela died in 2013 the world lost one of the 21st century’s great icons, but South Africa lost its moral beacon, Holomisa said.

Four years after Mandela’s passing away and amid a crisis in South African politics, South Africans should remember the spirit of Mandela’s principled compromise, Holomisa said.

Holomisa praised the Foundation for choosing to explore Mandela’s legacies in Unthreading Madiba, saying that the centenary of his birth “presents a vital opportunity to do what we perhaps did not do four years ago – that is, to properly reflect on Madiba’s legacy and genuinely take stock of the man’s life”.

Ndebele announced that the Centre’s permanent exhibitions now have Braille tags, to provide the visually impaired with a richer experience when visiting the Centre.

Watch a video of the event: