Nelson Mandela: South African icon

‘Each of us is as intimately
attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda
trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld… The time for the
healing of wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has
come. The time to build is upon us.’
– Nelson Mandela, from his
inaugural speech as President of South Africa in 1994.

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The man who was once the South African government’s number one
enemy, imprisoned for 27 years, was now its first democratically elected
president, appearing on the ballot paper alongside 18 other candidates. He was
the leader of the African National Congress party, the most influential of the
opposition groups in bringing about the end of apartheid in South Africa.

During apartheid, many groups outside South Africa
produced political art to raise awareness of apartheid and to promote the fight
against it. Through badges, t-shirts and posters the outside
world came to know the faces of political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and
Walter Sisulu.

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The badges here represent the British-based Anti-Apartheid
Movement (AAM), one of the most influential of the campaign groups. It was
formed as the Boycott Movement in 1959 by a group of South African exiles and
British opponents to apartheid and changed its name the following year. Other
badges refer to SWAPO (South West African Peoples Organisation), an armed
movement fighting for Namibian independence from South Africa.

See
how Mandela’s inspirational story helped shape the history of his nation in our
special exhibition South Africa: the art of a nation (27 October 2016 – 26 February 2017). 

Nelson Mandela
badge. UK, c. 1984.

Nelson Mandela badge. South Africa, 1994.

Anti-apartheid badges, 1984–1987. Mixed media.

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