The Mandela Decade

"How a prisoner became President"


This exhibition is a presentation of around 10 years of Nelson Mandela's life. It is less of a historical commentary than a way of capturing major events and using image to rediscover a particular atmosphere of that time and the vision of a character who has had a very strong moral influence, especially during the 1990s.

Nelson Mandela's expression well before he became a national hero, in 1941.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela was 72 years old. Imprisoned since 1964, he was the oldest political prisoner in the world. In 1989, he started to negotiate his release with the de Klerk government. During his imprisonment, he experienced many different institutions and his living conditions improved in line with his celebrity.

Nelson Mandela's cell in 1971.
Prisoners working at the Robben Island penitentiary in 1977

On February 11, 1990, Mandela was released. A crowd of his followers gathered in front of the Victor Verster prison where he had been detained. The prisoner demanded that his release from prison was shown to the world. He was reunited with his wife Winnie, his family and his comrades in arms. In his speech at the prison gate, he glorified the people's fight for freedom.

I stand here before you, not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.

On February 11, 1990, the Johannesburg crowd gathered to listen to him at the stadium.
Today, the colors of the ANC, the Madiba party, stand for freedom.

Negotiations soon got under way between the ANC, the Zulu IFP party and the National Party of de Klerk and Botha This was at the CODESA (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) session in December 1991.

Mandela, speech at the CODESA
F.W. de Klerk and Pik Botha at the CODESA
The tension between Prince Buthelezi's IFP and Mandela's ANC led to a latent civil war. In June 1992, ANC militants were massacred in Boipatong.
Mandela showed restraint but his angry supporters were ready to confront the police who were accused of being complicit in the murders. 
41 people were killed at Boipatong by the IFP. During the ANC's mourning protests, the police opened fire.
A man injured by a police bullet.
The dawn of a night of anguish.
Mourning in the colors of the ANC
Albert Lutuli receives the Nobel Prize, 1960
Desmond Tutu receives the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984
In 1964, Oslo's inhabitants were already fighting against apartheid. It was in this city, in 1993, that Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize.
With the world looking on, the first free elections took place in April 1994.
May 1994, the day of the inauguration: the joy of the Rainbow Nation

On the day of the vote, look at your ballot paper and when you see the picture of a handsome young man, put a cross beside it.

Nelson Mandela, 1994

President Mandela and his two vice-presidents, de Klerk and Mbeki, during the inauguration.
Mandela was the first black prime minister in the new South Africa. Here, he greets a humble employee of the presidential offices on the first day of his appointment.
Winnie Mandela was Nelson's companion since their marriage in 1958. Here, she arrives with Madiba's mother during the 1963 proceedings. Winnie was her husband's spokesperson during his imprisonment. She too had experience of the prison and secure facilities. But in 1992 the couple separated, and in 1996 they divorced.
Winnie, here with Albertina Sisulu in 1987, campaigned with the ANC and advocated violence.
The scandals caused by Winnie broke the facade of unity.
Although influenced by communism – here Fidel Castro is received as a special guest in 2001 – the policy of Mandela's government between 1994 and 1998 was more liberal, with privatization offset by social aid.
By meeting all the world's great leaders, including the US vice-president, Al Gore, in 1999, Madiba's South Africa stepped into its international role.


At the end of his presidency, Nelson Mandela continued to participate in public life with his foundation. He also used these years to enjoy a private life which was transformed in 1998 with his marriage to Graça Machel. 

Madiba continues to be one of the central figures in South Africa's public life. New political leaders are always compared to him. He has criticized the delays in action against AIDS and has been involved in humanitarian issues.

In 2007, he announced his retirement from public life. But in 2008, he agreed to participate in a humanitarian campaign in the United Kingdom, 20 years on from the concert organized for his freedom in 1988.

His final speech which marked his retirement from political life in 2007.
The concert of 2008, a look back over a 20-year battle and a call for responsibility. Behind Madiba are stars like Will Smith and his wife Graça Machel.

"It is in your hands now."

Nelson Mandela, 2008
Credits: Story

Advisor  — Zénine, Rafik, Audiovisual Director
Advisor — Emma d'Agonssa, Film Critic
Conseiller — Zénine, Rafik, directeur audiovisuel
Conseillère — Emma d'Agonssa, critique de film

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.