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Mandela 100: What to expect from the exhibition

MANDELA 100: The Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition is open until 19 August

FITTING THE extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela into one engaging exhibition is no easy feat but the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition at the Southbank Centre ambitiously takes on this challenge. The result is an inspiring display of the moments that made Mandela, leaving visitors the room to reflect and marvel the impact he left on the world.

The multimedia display follows the life of South Africa’s first black president through six different themes – character, comrade, leader, prisoner, negotiator and statesman.

The thematic approach will likely keep visitors captivated as they meander around the panels adorned with contextual narrative, details of Mandela’s personal and political life, images, some of which are rarely seen, and quotes, both from Mandela and those who knew him well.

Artefacts are also dotted in between the panels and enable visitors to get up close with materials that bear a significance to the South African leader’s life. Among the text featured on the panels are extracts from Mandela’s letters written to Winnie – his wife at the time – during his imprisonment on Robben Island. The letters were never sent to her.

Housed in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, iconic photographs of Mandela hang from floor to ceiling, in some way mirroring his monumental presence and the incredible legacy he created.

Visitors should be prepared to a fair bit of reading, something that should come as no surprise considering the enormous amount that Mandela achieved throughout his 95 years, 27 of which were spent in prison, but the varied format of sources, images and sounds helps keep what is weighty content engaging. As does the inventive layout.

Video footage of Mandela’s first TV interview, conducted while he was in hiding from the authorities, is just one of the archive clips that plays on loop. The numerous pieces of video footage mean that you can hear his voice effectively soundtracking various parts of the display.

The exhibition, timed to mark 100 years since Mandela’s birth, does well to chart his journey from “rebellious young man to the disciplined leader of a mass movement, taking on the might of the apartheid regime”.

Even those who think they know everything there is to know about Mandela will find food for thought in this showcase of his life achievements, the circumstances in which shaped him as a man and a leader, and the incredible impact he had on the world.

The Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition is free to visit and runs at the Southbank Centre until August 19.

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