Intimate Moments exhibition opening: Insights into Madiba, a ‘prisoner of his fame’ 21 years after being freed from jail

2011-02-14 00:00

NELSON Mandela may have walked free from a brick and mortar prison 21 years ago, but in many respects he remains trapped behind bars, a prisoner of his fame, of his many gatekeepers, the public attention he receives and the media.

This reality was brutally illustrated a few weeks ago when the world waited with bated breath for news of Madiba’s health, following his treatment for a lung infection.

It was a difficult time for those, like Verne Harris, head of the memory programme at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, who have worked closely with the former South African president.

Speaking at the official opening of the Intimate Moments photographic exhibition at the Liberty Midlands Mall on Friday evening — exactly 21 years after Mandela finally walked free from prison — Harris said: “Those of us who work with him, and have seen him enduring what he has, hope that he will walk out of that prison soon.”

He added that the former president is certainly not afraid of death. “Madiba confronted death at the Rivonia trial and it’s something he continues to do and to talk openly about,” Harris said.

“Those of us who struggle with the idea of life without Madiba need to realise that in some respects he has already gone … and that he will always be in our hearts.”

Confronting our own human nature and the idea that we will all die at some point, he added, was one of the many life lessons he had learned from Mandela in the past seven years.

Madiba had also taught him the importance of laughing at oneself, adding that as he got less and less robust, Mandela’s humour was increasingly directed at his own infirmity.

Madiba also believes that, while it might take an army to liberate a country, you have to liberate yourself, and that work of liberating yourself never ends.

Harris added that Mandela himself has had to change his views on some issues.

“Madiba, by his own admission, comes from a profoundly patriarchal milieu and he has had to work with the attitude and values that come with that,” he said.

The Intimate Moments exhibition — which was formally opened by Charlene Wittstock, former South African Olympic swimmer and princess-to-be of Monaco — features never-before-seen photographic portraits taken by Mathew Willman, Debbie Yazbek, Juda Ngwenya, Benny Gool, Alet van Huyssteen and Peter Morey.

Displayed with the permission of photographers and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the photos can be viewed at the Mall until February 25. Admission is free.

THE Liberty Midlands Mall is running a series of competitions to coincide with the Intimate Moments exhibition.

Young photographers (13 to 18) may enter photographs aligned to the theme Love, Educate, Empower in a competition in conjunction with the Arts and Culture Department. The top 10 pictures will be put on display.

Visitors can also win a couple’s treatment package valued at R1 000 from Solé Salons & Spas, or a one-day training course in problem solving skills for managers to the value of R18 500 from TLC. For further information phone Kerrie Muldoon at 082 892 7899.

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