Exhibition to go beyond ‘Mandela myth' with previously unseen personal objects

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition will open in London next month.

A new exhibition about Nelson Mandela will go beyond the “Mandela myth” and tell the story of his “remarkable life” through unseen personal possessions.

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition will celebrate the statesman’s life and legacy and will run in London from February 8 until June 2 this year.

It will feature objects owned by the anti-apartheid campaigner not previously seen outside of his native South Africa, including the suit he wore to the opening of the South African parliament in 1996.

Also in the collection is his presidential desk and chair, one of his famous beige trench coats and a traditional headdress gifted to him by the king of South Africa’s Xhosa native people.

Its narrative producer Steven Swaby said the collection – due to open at 26 Leake Street – would dispel misconceptions around the politician.

He said: “This unique exhibition goes beyond the well-known Mandela myth and reveals the inner stories of a remarkable life lived with remarkable courage, conviction and compassion.

“It asks us to consider the meaning of Mandela in the here-and-now and explores the complexities of his legacy in a world where inequality and injustice are still a daily fact of life.”

The event is a collaboration between the Royal House of Mandela and the Mvezo Development Trust, and celebrates Mandela’s 100th birthday as well as the fifth year since his death.

Its curators hope the objects will help visitors engage with and experience key moments in Mandela’s life.

The exhibition’s adviser Lizzy Moriarty said: “It is only once in a professional lifetime that a chance comes along to work on an exhibition of such magnitude, with objects which tell such a powerful story so relevant to our times.”

Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, said the Royal House of Mandela was “delighted” to endorse the exhibition.

He added: “It succeeds in quintessentially depicting the man and the legend whose struggle and sacrifice has captivated the hearts and minds of millions around the world.

“This exhibition is truly an inspiration and an inspired effort; I believe that everyone who sees it will agree that the legacy lives on and that the dream will never die.

“The exhibition is unusual in that it gives people the chance to get close to the man himself, as a family man, as an activist and as the peacemaker of his time.

“Many of the objects in the exhibition come from his house and have never been catalogued or curated before.”

Mandela died in 2013 at 95 after spending three months in hospital following a lung infection.

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