Fight for freedom showcased through dramatic visuals, digital technology
Visitors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) can experience the tiny cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison, take a stand in front of a giant armoured vehicle, make a virtual protest poster on a digital light table, or enter a secret apartment for freedom fighters forced underground.
CMHR / Jessica Sigurdson
A major new exhibition called Mandela: Struggle for Freedomofficially opens at a free public event tonight. A rich sensory experience of imagery, soundscape, digital media and objects is used to explore the earthshaking fight for justice and human dignity in South Africa – and its relevance to issues of today. Among its many dramatic visual features and original artifacts, the exhibition replicates Mandela’s eight-foot by seven-foot prison cell. When entered, the cell becomes a digital theatre whose walls tell a story of repression and resilience. Other exhibition highlights are described in the attached backgrounder.
Mandela’s unbreakable will inspired people around the globe to mobilize for human rights. Born 100 years ago next month (on July 18), he was one of the most famous human rights defenders of the 20th century and the face of a movement against racial injustice that rocked the world. Mandela is one of only six people to be made honorary Canadian citizens. He travelled to Canada a few months after his historic 1990 release from prison to thank its leaders and citizens for their support.
“Nelson Mandela was passionate about education as the path forward to a better world,” said CMHR president and CEO John Young. “Yet many young people have never heard of apartheid, while others are unfamiliar with the movement behind Mandela that spread to Canada and around the world. Our new travelling exhibition shares this important piece of global human rights history, so its lessons can reverberate with a new generation.”
The new exhibition was developed by the CMHR in collaboration with the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, whose founder and director, Christopher Till, has travelled to Winnipeg for the opening and will speak at a free, public event tonight at the CMHR.
CMHR / Jessica Sigurdson
“Nelson Mandela’s legacy and dedication to the achievement of freedom for the oppressed South African peoples has resonance for the world,” said Till. “His life is an example for the ongoing struggle against abuses of human rights that prevail in many parts of the world. This new exhibition not only provides insight into the man who dedicated his life to this cause, but can serve as a rallying cry.”
Also speaking at tonight’s event is Dr. Dolana Mogadime, an associate professor at Brock University in Ontario, whose mother’s story as a South African-Canadian anti-apartheid activist is presented in the exhibition via excerpts from a video-recorded oral history interview. Mogadime’s great-grandfather was South African political leader Henry Selby Msimang, a founding member of the South African Native National Congress, which became the African National Congress.
Tonight’s event is open to all, beginning at 7 p.m. in Bonnie & John Buhler Hall at the CMHR. In addition to remarks by Young, Till and Mogadime, lead curator Isabelle Masson will explain the exhibition and how it came together. The evening ends with a performance by Winnipeg’s African-Canada dance company, NAfro Dance, which choreographed a special tribute to Mandela, and live artistic creation by Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski.
The Museum is grateful to The Asper Foundation, TD Bank Group and Air Canada for supporting this exhibition. The CMHR thanks the many lenders whose loans bring this important story to life, including Robben Island Museum and political cartoonist Zapiro. The exhibition runs in the CMHR’s state-of-the-art Level 1 Gallery until January 6, 2019.