The exhibition immerses you in one of the turbulent histories of modern Africa /Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

What the Mandela exhibition in Berlin shows and why you should see it

An exhibition commemorating the life of South African freedom hero and global moral icon is currently showing in Berlin, Germany.

The international touring ‘Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition’, conceived in collaboration with Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, shows the life of the liberation icon, “providing fresh insight into the people, places and events that formed his character and the challenges he faced,” in the words of the organisers.

Curated from the extensive collections of The Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg and other sources, the exhibition features rare personal artefacts, film footages and documents in addition to audio-visual pieces.

From Mandela’s birth to his childhood and first conscious encounter with the stark injustice to which Black people in South Africa were being subjected and his discovery of a personal mission to effect change, the exhibition tells the Mandela story in a very vivid manner.

Vestiges of an evil system. Signs separating South Africans according to their skin colour during Apartheid /Photo: AfricanCourierMedia


The multimedia exhibition at the same time tells the story of South Africa’s journey from oppression to freedom, immersing you in one of the most turbulent histories of modern Africa. At every critical stage of the journey, the role played by Mandela is portrayed vividly and how the global hero’s family background and upbringing prepared for him for the Herculean task which history eventually thrust upon him.

Mandela’s heroic sacrifices were informed by his strong conviction that life’s meaning lies in its impact on others. And he lived that conviction to the very end. Though his long incarceration is viewed as the hallmark of his sacrifice for the freedom of his people, the crucial role Mandela played in managing a very difficult transition period after his release in 1990 was brought to the fore in the exhibition.

Without a Mandela, employing tact, wisdom and lessons of history, the story of South Africa could have been different today. Forces of oppression did not give up easily and they did everything possible to push the country into civil war, pitching African peoples against one another. In fact, more people died during the transition period (1990-94) as a result of the so-called black-on-black violence than all the victims of Apartheid put together in the 50 years preceding Mandela’s release from prison.

The author during in the exhibition/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia


Throughout the dire transition period, Mandela’s wisdom and clear understanding of the dynamics at work helped him to steer his land away from self destruction to peace and freedom.

READ ALSO Nelson Mandela: Official Exhibition opens in Germany

You can’t go through the exhibition without learning important lessons about African political troubles and how one man shows that Africans themselves can overcome whatever obstacles put in their way to peace and freedom.

‘Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition’, which opened in Berlin on 19 October, will run until 20 March 2020.

Femi Awoniyi

  • Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibitionfreedom is neither black nor white.
  • 19 October 2019 -15 March 2020
  • Bikini Berlin, Budapester Str. 38-50, 10787 Berlin
  • More on the exhibition here

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