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Nelson Mandela


When image must speak for the silenced voice









Foreword







Ruth is the Editor-In-Chief of MILK Books and PQ Blackwell Ltd., based in Auckland, New Zealand, publishers of Mandela: The Authorized Portrait—a photographic history of the great man. Ruth's heartfelt and insightful article represents the intersection of the artistic and the newsworthy. DepthRADIUS is honored to present Ruth's memories of Nelson Mandela as well as her as well as a unique perspective on his mastery of image and visual communication. From round the other side of the world, thank you, Ruth, and welcome to depthRADIUS!


DepthRADIUS is proud to present this remembrance of Nelson Mandela by guest reporter Ruth Hobday as part of the July 18 international celebration of what would have been Mandela's 96th birthday.  Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and one of the great moral and political leaders of our time, dedicated his life to fighting racial oppression and remarkably forged peace in South Africa.





Ruth Hobday










Quote by Nelson Mandela


“During the worst years of repression, when all avenues of legitimate protest were closed by emergency legislation, it was the arts that articulated the plight and the democratic aspirations of our people.”











The Power of Art & Photographs


of Nelson Mandela in the


Transformation of South Africa


by Ruth Hobday






Nelson Mandela
Mandela poses in a traditional kaross after his arrest in 1962.Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive/Eli Weinberg


In August of 2004, our boutique publishing house in New Zealand, PQ Blackwell, received an e-mail informing us that Mr. Nelson Mandela had granted us permission to produce the definitive illustrated book on his life, Mandela: The Authorized Portrait.


That message remains the single most exciting moment of my working life and it marked the beginning of my involvement with a man who had always been a personal hero. I was a trifle overawed and approached my new role with enormous trepidation.


When I first met Mandela, I heard him long before I saw him. He was coming down the corridor at the Nelson Mandela Foundation that separated his private office from the formal sitting room where he received guests, and he was joking around with his assistant, Zelda la Grange. He had a deep, booming voice, filled with laughter and, it seemed to me as we waited rather nervously in the sitting room, the voice of a much younger man than the 87-year old I was expecting.


When he entered he was leaning heavily on Zelda’s arm and I was to learn later that the great icon’s knees had become so bad he could barely walk without assistance. Mandela, however, steadfastly refused to use a walking stick because it would make him appear frail and, as it became quickly clear to me during our conversation, there was nothing frail about the warmth of his welcome, his quick and ready wit or his obvious affection for his former cellmates.






I have spent some considerable time looking at images of Mandela. Every piece of art, every representation of Mandela I could find, was based on a photograph. Clearly this makes sense… it’s rather hard to ask one of the world’s most famous people to sit for you, particularly if, as in his case, he was rather enjoying his retirement. But it did make me remember Mr. Mandela’s knees, and think about his stubborn insistence on not using a cane: to wonder about Mandela’s desire to control his image; how his life and his immense presence on the cultural and political map of the late 20th and early 21st centuries can be understood through those representations.


To better understand Mandela’s desire to project a certain exterior image of himself as a source of empowerment, we must reflect on events that shaped Mandela from an early age. He grew up in the Eastern Cape of South Africa at the knee of his father, a respected advisor to the Chief Regent of the Thembu people who meted out ‘justice under a tree’ in the age-old African practice of people gathering beneath a tree to discuss important matters. When Nelson’s father died, the acting king of the AbaThembu people became the 12-year-old boy’s legal guardian. It was there in the royal household that Mandela learned the incredible power of image and imagery. One of the young Mandela’s tasks was to press the king’s many suits, and he learned the king’s attention to his wardrobe was not simply one of vanity; it was about dignity and self-worth. It was also about projecting an image of himself as a leader. This was a man who, in the rural Eastern Cape of the 1920s, would travel amongst his people in the back of a chauffeur-driven Ford wearing a three-piece suit and hat. A more impressive display of his royal status would be hard to imagine.










A film still from ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ depicting the regent in his chauffeur driven car.


Keith Bernstein/Long Walk to Freedom (Pty) Ltd.









Early on in his legal career as a young ‘man about town’ Mandela knew that his own car and expensive suits were going to be important accessories in establishing his status as a successful attorney and up-and-coming politician.


The young Mandela’s stylishness was more than vanity. It was about his control of his image. This was a projection of himself and his position at a time when writing or voicing any kind of opposition to the apartheid government was forbidden by law. The dignity of his wardrobe and his bearing cried out in their contrast with his silenced voice in a way more powerful than a protest chant rising from the impoverished streets.



Nelson Mandela
Mandela as a young law clerk in Johannesburg, 1953.Ahmed Kathrada/Herbert Shore


Mandela the Advocate became “Mandela the Chief” when he arrived in court after his arrest in 1962. By this evolution in his rebellion, Mandela had been a wanted man for some time and the white South African press had dubbed him the ‘Black Pimpernel’ after the fictional ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the French Revolution. Arriving in court to be charged, he chose to dress in a traditional kaross instead of his trademark suit to proclaim the heritage and history of his people. The effect on the crowds of onlookers was electrifying and, as he was hauled off to prison to await trial, the call and response cries of “Amandla!” (“Power!”) “Ngawethu!” (“Is ours!”) were taken up in the streets. The Black Pimpernel may have been captured but he was now the hero of the people. Unknown to most of them was the fact that Mandela hadn’t been able to get hold of an actual kaross, traditionally made from a leopard-skin, but instead Winnie had provided him with one made out of jackal skins stitched together.


Another important decision made by this people’s leader—suddenly facing the next 27 years separated from his people on Robben Island—was the decision to grow a beard. His more conservative African National Congress comrades were wary of the more provocative radical look. Mandela remained steadfast and his creation of a new ‘Mandela the Revolutionary’ look became the enduring image of him throughout his Robben Island incarceration. According to friend, comrade, and fellow prisoner Ahmed Kathrada, who occupied the cell next to Mandela’s on Robben Island, “By the time he went underground in 1961, his most recognizable feature was his beard. Among other things he had to forsake his stylish and expensive clothing. But above all he had to shave his beard. He agreed to most suggestions but simply refused to shave.” A photograph of Mandela taken at an Algerian training camp earlier in 1962, complete with a revolutionary’s beard, made him one of the most instantly recognizable figures in the world and led to him being dubbed The Black Pimpernel. Ironically it was this same image that became the touchstone of the international anti-apartheid movement.







Nelson Mandela
“Release Nelson Mandela” Poster 1.South African History Archives, courtesy Historical Papers, University of the Witwatersrand Library





Nelson Mandela
“Release Nelson Mandela” Poster 3.South African History Archives, courtesy Historical Papers, University of the Witwatersrand Library









The ‘Black Pimpernel’ image forms part of the backdrop to the 1988 concert at London’s Wembley Stadium, 26 years after it was taken.


Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive/IDAF Collection








Once he was jailed, Mandela had been silenced.







Nelson Mandela
“Release Nelson Mandela” PosterSouth African History Archives, courtesy Historical Papers, University of the Witwatersrand Library


Even quoting Mandela in South Africa became a criminal offence, so the only available voice became an artistic one. The ‘Mandela the Revolutionary’ photo became a template for art that called for an end to apartheid. It also became the basis for thousands of international campaigns around the world that used it on posters advertising anti-apartheid meetings and rallies, and at fundraisers and concerts such as the watershed concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in July 1988 celebrating Mandela’s 70th birthday.


One sometimes looks back on history as being somehow inevitable. But was Mandela’s eventual release and the dismantling of apartheid inevitable? Perhaps, but what is absolutely clear is that Mandela’s beard and the ‘Mandela the Revolutionary’ images became the most potent symbols of the worldwide movement that eventually made the inevitable actually occur. Artists used these images, re-interpreted them, added their own artistic vision, and plastered the streets with these re-imagined Mandelas, and in turn played an important role in contributing to the international pressure that led to Mandela’s liberation and the collapse of the racist and oppressive regime that had incarcerated him.







Mandela recognized this only too well, saying after his release,






“During the worst years of repression, when all avenues of legitimate protest were closed by emergency legislation, it was the arts that articulated the plight and the democratic aspirations of our people.”







It was Art in the form of those shared images carrying his message to the people. It was Art that had the power to transmit that message around the globe. It was Art that helped shape and change South Africa and the world for the better. And this should be something worth noting by present day artists.







Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandelaby rolandtelema



Nelson Mandela
INVICTUSby MarkRaats




Being an artist can be a lonely business. There are times when an artist wonders if what they do is either worthwhile or important and times when not creating art can seem a much easier prospect than continuing. But, as the artistic renderings of Mandela show, art and images have power, and that power can change the world. One need look no further than the Banksy-inspired graffiti on the streets of the world's largest cities to see how artists continue to fight oppression with the power of shared images. Or the Mandela/Obama ‘Hope’ poster mash-up with its collision of images and meaning that extends their once individual use as a means to continue to convey ideas. Today, more than ever perhaps, art continues to be one of our most important and powerful voices and, thanks to the free and unfettered sharing of images in communities such as deviantART, individuals are able to distribute their art more quickly than ever in order to exchange ideas and effect change.




To return to The Black Pimpernel and his infamous beard, it is interesting to note that this particular image is seldom, if ever, used as a template by today’s artists. This may be because upon his release Mandela created a new image, a new persona for himself; one that immediately consigned his beard to the back catalogue of history. As Mandela completed his long walk to freedom in 1990 he left prison in a crisp white shirt, suit and tie, arm raised and fist clenched in victory. He had become ‘Mandela the Politician’ and was soon to become ‘Mandela the President’.


This was not, however, the end of Mandela’s powerful use of wardrobe and image.




At the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final Mandela chose to manipulate his image once again. Rugby was the sport of choice for the white Afrikaner population and the jersey of the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, was a strong source of Afrikaner pride. This, in turn, had made it a symbol of white oppression for the black population during years of the apartheid regime. When Mandela walked onto the pitch to greet the victorious South African team at the end of the game wearing that jersey, he captured the hearts of the largely white Afrikaner crowd and in so doing toppled one of last remaining barriers to reconciliation in South Africa without saying a word.












Mandela dons a Springbok rugby jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.


Picturenet Africa/Paul Velasco









After his retirement Mandela adopted his now famous ‘personality’ shirts that signified a more approachable, less political figure.




Nelson Mandela
Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday with Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg 2006.Nelson Mandela Foundation/PQ Blackwell



Nelson Mandela
Mandela wearing one of his famous ‘personality’ shirts with longtime friend and comrade Ahmed Kathrada.Nelson Mandela Foundation/Debbie Yazbek



It is these ‘Mandela the Elder Statesman’ shirts that most of us now remember him by. It was what he was wearing the day I first met him. I was shaking with nerves, of course, but the combination of colorful shirt, immense charm, and his delightful, somewhat mischievous sense of humor put me completely at my ease. It’s always daunting to meet your heroes but it’s an intensely gratifying experience when you discover they are everything you’d hoped they’d be and much, much more.


It was ‘Mandela the Elder Statesman’ I met that day. An old man stubbornly refusing to bend to the tyranny of his aging knees but also a man who had always been keenly aware of his image and its various meanings. Advocate, Chief, Revolutionary, President, Unifier, Elder—all images carefully thought out and deployed as vital tools in the struggle against, and victory over, apartheid. I feel tremendously grateful to have had the subsequent privilege of working on a number of books based on his life and his writings over the last decade of his life until his passing last year.


Since that moment he has been transformed one final time, into ‘Mandela the Icon’.


July 18 has been designated Nelson Mandela Day to “inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and to empower communities everywhere.” The message behind the campaign is simple—that each individual has the ability and responsibility to impact positive change every day. Indeed, the image of Mandela walking free from prison in 1990, fist held triumphantly in the air, is the basis for the official Nelson Mandela Day logo — a powerful graphic derived from Mandela’s very last steps in his own personal ‘long walk to freedom’.



Nelson Mandela

Mandela spent more than 67 years serving his community, his country and the world. This number is symbolic of how people can start to do the same—one small step at a time—and in so doing become part of a continuous, global movement for good. I invite you to use 67 minutes today, tomorrow, and the day after that, to create or share art that reminds us that we can all make a difference, however big or small, and make every day a ‘Mandela Day.’


Because, ultimately, it’s not only the creation of art, but the sharing of it that makes it so potent. Sharing and distributing your art empowers it as a vital and important tool for change and reminds us that as long as we have art, we have a voice.


“Good art is invariably universal and timeless.”


Nelson Mandela, from a letter to his daughter, Zindzi Mandela, written on Robben Island.


www.mandeladay.com











Let it Ring Out Forever



There is a name, three syllables, that is a totem, a poem, a song of liberation and freedom that every day lifts lives pinioned by barbed wire and disappeared behind walls of cold stone. It is a name that sparks a burst of light in the brain of she who speaks it or he who hears it—a burst of illumination lighting pathways out of oppression that eschew violence in favor of the more powerful truth and strength of peaceful and creative protest.


There is a name for a man whose living example burst asunder the invisible manacles of enslaved millions in their own lands. That man’s “long walk” has now crossed him over from living role model to global spiritual legend.


Mandela.


May it ring like a garland of brightly burning bells revolving in our minds and guiding our hearts. DeviantART salutes Nelson Mandela and all those whose life’s art, like Mandela’s example, steadily cut like purifying streams of water through the hardest stone of prison walls.


Ours is a time of petrified ideology, non-negotiation and deafness hailed as strength. It is a time when we need not despair of any forward progress. We have the life of Mandela to guide our efforts, our art and our lives. In facing impossible obstruction with joy in our hearts—this is how we do honor to the great man.


Mandela! Let it ring out forever.
















MILK Books is donating 67 cents for everyone who joins its database, plus the chance to receive one of five framed gallery prints from the Nelson Mandela Quotations Collection featuring original artwork based on Mandela’s words.













Questions


For The Reader


  1. How have you experience racism in your own life?
  2. Can art be used to cure racism?
  3. How did you first become aware of Nelson Mandela and his struggle to free South Africa from apartheid?
  4. Have you ever created and displayed art as an expression of protest? Do you think your artwork amplified your message? Better than a manifesto? Did you feel liberated in artistically presenting a political expression? Did you feel in any way endangered?
  5. What’s the most powerful protest you’ve ever witnessed in your lifetime?












Nelson Mandela's story defines the role art and photography played in South Africa's transformation. How do you celebrate the life of a man who understood that art is not bound by language and can speak its own volumes?

Writers: techgnotic, Ruth Hobday
Designers: seoul-child, marioluevanos 
Add a Comment:
 
:iconblackcatinthedark:
BlackCatInTheDark Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2014
Such a beautiful journal.
1. How have you experience racism in your own life? 
Since I'm an Asian, yes, it's not frequent, but I do be judged because of my skin colour. Well, even some people call me names, and talk things about my country. I'm used to that though. But of course I'm angry.
2. Can art be used to cure racism?
Sure. It's not always perfect, but I think it can open the narrow-minded of some racist. Art is beautiful if you know how to pass messages through it.
3. How did you first become aware of Nelson Mandela and his struggle to free South Africa from apartheid?
We had a lesson about him and South Africa residents when I was in, like, grade 4. So that was my first time. And I have worked on this subject a lot, to understand the problem.
4. Have you ever created and displayed art as an expression of protest? Do you think your artwork amplified your message? Better than a manifesto? Did you feel liberated in artistically presenting a political expression? Did you feel in any way endangered?
Yes, I have. Well, I think so, sad that not many people got it. Yes, it's better. I felt a little liberated, and of course there are something from the racists.
5. What’s the most powerful protest you’ve ever witnessed in your lifetime?
I haven't lived that long, so all the things I saw were equally powerful in one way or another.
Reply
:iconrubinhernan:
rubinhernan Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2014  New member
Beautiful, splendid, wonderful cover up. Permit me please, to say "Thanks  Herr Olof Palme, for all you did. Thanks Swedes for helping Herr Olof Palme on behalf of Mr. Nelson Mandela´s freedom. Thanks Stockholmians!  Thanks deviantART! 
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:iconsoulsinlove:
soulsinlove Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
yes I've been rasical and I ecperince it
Reply
:iconbluehufsa:
bluehufsa Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I remember about Winnie Mandela saying that she agrees with collaring,burning people alive with tires around their necks. So no offense, but when i hear the name Mandela i think about horrors.. Why is this shit on DA? 
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:iconartofelysee:
ArtOfElysee Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2014
Winnie Mandela is not Nelson Mandela and he divorced her because of her violence and extremism. Art has always brought awareness and moved revolution forward to growth and change to humanity of repressed people, ideas and oppression. Nelson Mandela is by far the most powerful force we have experienced in the last several decades and was a humble force and example of forgiveness of love. So please don't belittle him or the power art has made in bringing awareness and changing history by calling it or him "shit"!!! 
Reply
:icondurandthecreator:
durandTHEcreator Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Professional General Artist
its on DA because it is politically correct, it isn't terrorism if you win. if the soviet union survived and capitalism was destroyed schools ould teach that America was evil, and that the west was an abomination.
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:iconomodunni:
Omodunni Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
ART TO ME IS A MEDIUM IN WHICH THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, ASPIRATIONS AND INSPIRATIONS COULD BE COMMUNICATED, EVERY ARTIST THAT HAS EXISTED IN TIMES PAST HAS PRECISELY EXPRESSED THEMSELVES IN THEIR WORKS OF ART. FOR NELSON MANDELA, I BELIEVED HE HAD A MISSION AND WHICH HE FINALLY COMPLETED, AS ONE OF MY QUOTATIONS SAYS THAT ' THE GREATER THE DESTINY OF A MAN,IS THE SAME AS HIS CHALLENGES', THAT MANDELA FOUGHT AND WON THE BATTLE AGAINST THE APARTHEID AND SOUTH AFRICA BECAME FREE WAS A DESTINY FULFILLED. I MYSELF HAS ONE TIME OR OTHER BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, BUT I STOOD TO NEVER BE DEFEATED. AS HUMAN RIGHT ACTIVIST, I HAVE ALWAYS USED MY ART AND MUSIC TO COMMUNICATE POSITIVE CHANGE AND I CAN NEVER STOP DOING THAT FOR A LIFE TIME. THANKS  
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:iconbohax:
Bohax Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
If Mandela had truely wanted to harm 'The Whites' god knows he would have done so after he gained power. There was enough pressure put on him by people who did not feel as merciful towards their former oppressors as he did. He may have been angry and wanted to fight and do damage, he may also have been desparate and slid into survival mode at the sight of the suffering of his friends and family; but if you say that you would not have felt the same, put in his position, you are either a liar or a saint. And I highly doubt the latter.
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:iconbohax:
Bohax Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
To all those who mention the bombing of school buses: unfortunately, desparate times call for desparate measures. While there can be no justification for the murder of innocent children, unjustifiably acts are some times necessary as a last resort. Do any of you actually know what happened during the apartheid era? Do you know how Blacks were treated? If you can sit behind a computer and call Mandela a 'communist terrorist', you are clearly just another ill-informed facist, leeching off of the propoganda of a dead regime.

I am a White South African born in 1995, post-apartheid, and Nelson Mandela was the saviour of this country. He was a hero; the only person that I have heard of who I could name so.
Yes, he was human. Yes, he was put in some very difficult situations. It is inevitable that there are people who will look at the horrible things that he was all but forced to do in order to secure the freedom from oppression, of over 40 000 000 people. Yes, people, not the animals that they were treated as.

And Robin Island, you wouldn't let your dog live there. It is building upon building of concrete slab and barbed wire. And where there is no concrete, there is arid, stoney sand. It is no Bahamas. 27 years there would be enough to drive any one without a higher motive, raving mad. Do not judge a freedom fighter until you have walked the lenght of his prison cell in his shoes. And please do not bad mouth people of whom you know nothing.
Reply
:iconartofelysee:
ArtOfElysee Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2014
Touche' Bohax. It's a shame that people with their head in the sand of their own ignorance, fear and self hatred spew out these sentiments so effortlessly. It cannot belittle the greatness or a powerful force of love and compassion as Mandela was. One can only hope that these sad individuals look at their own lives and see the mistakes they have made and are in denial of may open their hearts and better understand humanity one day. Greatness is forgiveness of others and accepting responsibility for our own actions and moving forward in love. The differences he made cannot and will not be denied by those who stand in clarity.
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