A Tapestry of Nelson Mandela’s Life 100 years After His Birth

Unthreading Mandela

By The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Welcome spool of thread, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

We invite you to join in and add your voice

Unthreading Mandela was developed to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela - one of the most spoken about, analysed and idealised figures in recent history. While his impact is extraordinary, his legacy is complex. The democracy he and so many others fought for is imperfect. It is an unfinished project. We invite you to join in, add your voice. Do not be afraid to challenge and question. Become part of the conversation. 

Early childhood reflections on cloth, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Rolihlahla = the troublemaker

Madiba’s earliest and most deeply rooted influences ‘the imprint of language, place and culture lie in his traditional upbringing in rural Transkei.

Hallway, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"What language do you think in? What language do you dream in? What is the language of your heart?"

"What should we do when our traditions and customs come into conflict with the values of our constitution?"

Nelson, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Embracing a colonial education

Madiba’s enduring respect for Anglo-Saxon cultures is rooted in his early encounters with mission schooling. The British notions of ‘fair play’ and doing things ‘properly’ remain with him throughout his life. 

His father's pants, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How realistic is it today, to demand decolonised education ? What are the alternatives?"

"What can we do about our lost generation –young people who haven’t finished school or who can’t find jobs?"

Installation on education, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How relevant are the ways in which we measure academic success today?"

"What kind of men do we want our boys to become?"

Mr Mandela, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Mr Mandela: from ousider to man about town

Mandela makes his way to Johannesburg, where he initially feels very much an outside. But he is will soon become a charming ‘man about town’, a confident legal professional and a committed political activist. 

Treason Trial, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"Why today are people from our neighbouring countries made to feel like outsiders?"

Madiba wearing his first suit, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"Why was it important to wear a smart suit?"

Biographies printed on cloth, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How have our conversations about race and identity shifted over the past fifty years ? Have they shifted enough?"

Comrade, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Comrade, militant, commander, and fugitive

Mandela becomes a firebrand ANC leader and military commander. He goes underground, is arrested, and becomes Accused No 1. In the Rivonia Trial. His political activism comes at a huge personal cost.

The Black Pimpernel, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"What does it take to have a good life in a country where many people have nothing? How much is enough."

"How far do people need to be pushed to turn to desperate measures? Is violence ever a way to solve a problem?"

"What can our leaders today learn from the leaders of the liberation movement?"

Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, Unthreading Mandela (2018) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Prisoner 46664

Prison shapes Mandela, inside and out. Given the harshness of prison life, and the length of his incarceration, it is intriguing that he later looks back on his years in prison with some nostalgia. In a sense he remains a prisoner throughout his life: a prisoner of fame, and, towards the end of his life, a prisoner of infirmity.

Richard Stengal in conversation with Madiba on Robben Island Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How do you stay human in a place that strips you of your humanity?"

A prisoner in the garden, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How can we make sure prison becomes a place of transformation rather than a place of punishment?"

Madiba mending trousers, Unthreading Mandela (2018) by Nelson Mandela FondationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How can you ever compensate for the time lost in prison?"

Madiba at Robben Island, Unthreading Mandela (2018) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"After all the sacrifices that people have made, how free is our country today?"

Mr President, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Mr President: negotiations, elections, and inaugurations

Throughout the transition period the dominant narrative is reconciliation; the purpose is to entrench democracy for all South Africans. But it is a process that requires much negotiation and compromise. It required a liberation movement to become a governing party, and the leader of that movement to become a president and an international statesman. 

FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"Can you negotiate a political settlement without compromising your principles?"

"How did the early deals with the National Party impact on our democracy today?"

Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"What happened to the ideal of a rainbow nation?"

An installation of Madiba in his retirement, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

A global icon

Becoming a global brand: Madiba is on the world stage, universally adored, finding domestic happiness again in his marriage to Graça Machel but always having to deal with family pressures and public demands.

Mandela polishing shoes on plane, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"In what ways can people who benefited from colonialism and apartheid give back?"

Johannesburg, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How do we get people to engage with the big issues of our times ?–Inequality, global warming, nuclear threat, disease , religious extremism."

Madiba shirts, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"What can ordinary people do about poverty and inequality? Is it something that government and rich people should fix?"

Installation of Madiba's shirt, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FounationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"What happened to the Madiba magic ? What magic do we need in South Africa and the world today?"

Messages to Madiba, Unthreading Mandela (2018-11-07) by Nelson Mandela FoundationThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

"How do you remember Madiba?"

Credits: Story

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