Mandela: The Official Exhibition is the major new global touring exhibition that takes visitors on a personal journey through the life of the world's most iconic freedom fighter and political leader. A revolutionary experience that celebrates his life and legacy, the exhibition makes its World Premiere at 26 Leake Street Gallery at Waterloo's Graffiti Tunnels - the perfect home for this one-of-a-kind exhibition from February 8th 2019.

Through a series of immersive zones (detailed below) - each one a dramatically different experience - the narrative of the takes us on a journey through a remarkable life. An interactive experience covering 750 square metres, the exhibition features previously unseen film, photos and the display of over 150 historical artefacts and personal effects on loan from the Mandela family, museums and archives worldwide.

  • The Early Years features a replica of a traditional rondavel set among the rolling hills of the Transkei. This section examines both the traditional Thembu culture and the life of a rural farm boy via a variety of traditional artefacts.
  • The Struggle is My Life uses participatory media to enable visitors to feel the hardships of apartheid exploring themes that include the degradation of segregation, the pass burning movement of the Defiance campaign and the harshness of police brutality.
  • Prison Years recreates the tall stone tower and sounds of Robben Island and uses Nelson Mandela's words and letters in a powerful AV experience of life in his prison cell.
  • Anti-Apartheid in Britain celebrates the contributions of British trade unions, celebrities and individuals that helped bring about the end of the apartheid government.
  • Freedom? presents the violence of the early 1990s through original news footage of the day and celebrates the miracle of the first democratic election.
  • Healing a Nation shares iconic objects and video contributions by family members, former staff and famous names including Neneh Cherry, Peter Gabriel and Lewis Hamilton, to show how Nelson Mandela united South Africa and inspired the world.
  • A Moment with Mandela gives each visitor the opportunity to hear directly from Madiba inspiring the next generation to pick up the torch and carry on the legacy

For a full breakdown of each exhibition zone and a note of key artefacts contained within each, please visit


The exhibition today reveals a 'First Look' at a sample of artefacts that will be on display in London until June 2nd. These include the ceremonial headdress awarded to Mandela upon release from prison by King King Xolilzwe Sigcawu of the Xhosa people; a sjambok used for cattle-herding by Mandela as a child; Public signs from the Apartheid era, Mandela's tennis racquet from Robben Island later gifted to his warder, Christo Brand's children; one of Mandela's famous hand-printed batik shirts, his colourful AbaThembu bag and his much-loved trenchcoat. View the artefacts and the supporting shot list here © Jon Ball:

Mandela: The Official Exhibition is working in partnership with Plowden & Smith, the world-renowned art and object restoration and conservation company.

Plowden & Smith works with galleries, collectors, museums, auction houses, interior designers and art market professionals to restore, conserve and mount objects located all around the world. Their team offered a first look at exhibition artefacts, along with access to a handful of pieces being unveiled in the UK for the first time, their conservation team at work, and some of the objects being mounted ready for installation. Those images can be viewed here:

For more information about Plowden and Smith visit:


Specially created for the world premiere's host city, Mandela: The Official Exhibition will host a one-off zone explore the UK's significant relationship with the Anti-Apartheid movement.

During the years Nelson Mandela and his comrades were imprisoned, Britain was a nerve centre of the Anti-Apartheid movement, a stronghold of solidarity and hot bed of activism. It was a home and base of operations for many South African exiles - including Oliver Tambo and other ANC members and other political and liberationist movements banned by the apartheid government. Over more than four decades hundreds of thousands of people in Britain, from all walks of life, were called to action through music, the arts, public rallies and boycotts. This visible people power was crucially accompanied by a little-known undercover defiance from the people of Britain (including the clandestine activities of the ANC's London Recruits and the financial support channelled through the International Defence and Aid Fund) and underpinned the movement to 'Free Nelson Mandela' and the people of South Africa.

The Anti-Apartheid in Britain section of the exhibition traces these two distinct but intertwined narratives; the video element of this section includes exclusive interview footage with high profile campaigners, poet Lemn Sissay MBE and politician Lord Hain and a previously unseen scene from the London Recruits Film. Objects on display in this section include never seen before manuscripts, loaned by Mr X (aka William Frankel OBE) detailing the transference of funds for legal and welfare assistance of high-profile liberationists and their families and ephemera from the antiapartheid movement. One highlight is the chance to hear Ronnie Kasrils, ANC operative (later post democracy Chief of Intelligence) calling attendees to undertake a secret information distribution mission... will you accept? Heritage partners here include the Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives, Canon Collins Trust and London Recruits Film.


The exhibition appreciates the support and involvement of several South African Heritage Partners including institutions and individuals who are contributing to the exhibition content. In addition to the Royal House of Mandela, these Heritage Partners include: The Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives, The Liliesleaf Heritage Site, Mqhekezweni - The Great Place and Jongintaba Heritage Hub.


Zelda la Grange is guest curator for the exhibition's Healing a Nation Gallery. Zelda served President Mandela in various capacities over 19 years including Executive Personal Assistant, Spokesperson, Manager of Stakeholder relations, Aide-de-camp and Manager of his private office until his death on 5 December 2013. In 1999, President Mandela hand-picked her from his personal staff to remain in his services beyond retirement.

Together with Professor Jakes Gerwel, Zelda was the only other founding staff member of the post-Presidential Office of Mr Nelson Mandela from where the Nelson Mandela Foundation was established. In this section, visitors examine Mandela's presidency and following retirement, when he was anything but retired. Zelda's contributions include her personal collection of objects including, hand written correspondence, photographs, state visit booklets, plane tickets, Mandela's United Nations Pass and more.


Mandela's warder and later, life-time friend, Christo Brand has donated a number of objects which can be found in the exhibition's 10,000 Days: The Prison Years (1964-1990) zone. Here, visitors can learn how Mandela's personality and determination helped to shape and steer a particular culture during his incarceration on Robben Island. We see Mandela as a man determined to show respect and kindness to all. A number of items donated by Christo from Robben Island can be seen, including Mandela's tennis racquet, gifted by the Red Cross to ensure prisoners had to sports and equipment, that he later gifted to Christo's children.

Both Zelda and Christo are in the UK during select dates in February and are available for interview.

For more information on the contributions of the heritage partners, please see the supporting document attached.


BBC Icons: In January, BBC Two started its search for the greatest person of the 20th Century, inviting audiences to get involved and vote for their favourite icon in the most ambitious BBC history series in over a decade. Mandela won the 'Leaders' category, the first in the series, which also featured Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Franklin D Roosevelt. Mandela joins six other section winners in a publicly voted live final on Tuesday 5th February. For more information visit:

Nelson Mandela's grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela says of the exhibition:

"The Royal House of Mandela is delighted to endorse this exhibition honouring the life and legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as it truly captures the spirit of our global icon whose name has become synonymous with international solidarity, justice and peace. It succeeds in quintessentially depicting the man and the legend whose struggle and sacrifice has captivated the hearts and minds of millions around the world. This exhibition is truly an inspiration and an inspired effort; I believe that everyone who sees it will agree that the legacy lives on and that the dream will never die.

London and the United Kingdom more broadly was home to many South African exiles and activists in the anti-apartheid struggle. In the 1980s and '90s Trafalgar Square and South Africa House was the scene of many a picket and protest action and this news found its way to Mandela in his cell, either in encoded messages, by word of mouth and in the latter years, via news clippings. It was therefore no surprise that Madiba chose London as one of the first cities outside Africa to visit as a free man after his 27-year incarceration. I can say without the slightest doubt that Madiba would have given his stamp of approval to staging this exhibition in London."

Nelson Mandela's story has been told many times before, not least of all by the man himself in his own words. So, what makes Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition different? The exhibition features unique insights from across the spectrum - from close family, friends and others who admired him from afar. Personal artefacts and other material also reveal the deeper stories behind the headlines and bring us closer to the man behind the myth.

Mounted in collaboration with the Royal House of Mandela and the Mvezo Development Trust, Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is presented in celebration of the 100th year of his birth and to honour the 5th year of his passing. Further global dates are to be announced as part of a world-wide tour before the exhibition is permanently mounted in Mvezo, Mandela's birthplace.

A portion of the exhibition proceeds will be given to the Mvezo Development Trust to support economic development programmes in South Africa's Eastern Cape.

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