Nelson Mandela, the gardener

This past weekend my friend Eljanne visited us and I took her to the Apartheid Museum. I’ve been there two or three times before and as usual, was in awe of just how fantastic this museum is. It is wonderful that the history of apartheid is displayed in such a clever way, showing the brutality of apartheid and showing the policies of segregation implemented by the whites and the benefits they reaped, without making judgements and letting history speak for itself. 

This time the museum also has an exhibition celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela with wall displays, films, original artefacts and hundreds of photographs. I was moved by one in particular. It is an image of Mandela, dressed neatly in prison clothes and leaning on a spade.

The story behind this picture is that John Vorster’s government allowed a number of journalists to visit Robben Island in April 1977. It was a propaganda ploy to persuade the outside world that the prison conditions were not as bad as reported by the media. On that day Mandela and his fellow prisoners were told to work in the garden instead of going to the lime quarry. What attracted me to this picture is the body language of the man behind the Jackie O sunglasses. You can detect Mandela’s composure and his stature, his bearing more that of a president-in-waiting than a prisoner.

You can visit the Apartheid Museum's website here or like their Facebook page.

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