Nelson Mandela Is Dead- The exhibition

THE last day of November 2023 had a news media contingent descending on the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Lower Houghton for the launch of an interactive exhibition commemorating 10 years since his passing on December 5, 2013.

Curated by Kneo Mokgopa, inter alia, the installation includes a blank Perspex panel on which viewers are invited to scribble their thoughts with permanent markers in response to the question: What does it mean that Nelson Mandela is dead?

Another segment labelled The Library of Untold Freedom features enamel mugs dangling from the ceiling – a reference to the role the utensil plays on our domestic existence, with visitors encouraged to hold them in the palms of their hands and thereafter whisper into them: in the hope of inspiring the future to be more free than the present.

A section composed of transparent Perspex panels with Madiba’s visage etched onto them by Mokgopa titled, Unthere: Nelson Mandela Is Dead, creates an illusion as, when exposed to light, the image disappears – thus illustrating the reality that Madiba is no longer with us, only persisting via our memories of him.

One labelled, Please, Take This, It’s Falling: Passing of the Salt, invites the audience to pass a handful of salt from one basin and onto an empty one. The symbolism to be gleaned from this exercise is the exhortation unto the citizenry to play its role in working towards the country’s greatest hopes for freedom.

With plenty of young ladies from the media corps and other walks of life in attendance, the programme was steered by poetess, Lebo Mashile.

Madiba’s granddaughter, Ndileka was one of the speakers and even though proceedings were conducted in a lighthearted manner, she took the opportunity to slam voter apathy ahead of the 2024 polls by averring, “Let us remember the principles my grandfather stood for!”

(Nelson Mandela Is Dead curator Kneo Mokgopa seen addressing attendees to the media launch of the Nelson Mandela Is Dead exhibition).

Probably a barometer indicative of the condition South Africa finds itself in, the exhibition carries the curious theme: Nobody Is Going To Save Us. Having had its first display at Stellenbosch University (intentionally chosen for its history of racial, ethnic and gender issues – according to its conceptualizer), its second iteration was showcased at a multi-purpose venue named The Forge in Braamfontein, so as to allow an older demographic to lend their voice and engage in the question.

At some point Mokgopa requested the audience, which included the creator of the documentary film, “The Gallery that Destroys All Shame”, Jessie Zinn, to observe a moment of silence.

(Poetess Lebo Mashile recorded whilst directing the programme at the launch of Nelson Mandela Is Dead exhibition).

At the programme’s conclusion, SAMA-nominee, Nobuhle Ashanti and her accomplices, vocalist Jodi Fredericks and bass guitarist, Joshua Nemaire took the stage to perform musical items for guests whilst they feasted on delicious morsels of food accompanied by sunset beverages easing psyches into the distant Jean Toomer-esque ‘long tournament of flashing gold’ Highveld summer horizon!

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is located on 107 Central Street, Houghton and entrance to the exhibition is free.

Top all images Jacob MAWELA ( Madiba’s granddaughter Ndileka Mandela, pictured at the media launch of Nelson Mandela Is Dead exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, Houghton).

(Razia Saleh, head of Archive & Research at the NM Center of Memory depicted addressing the audience during the media launch).

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