News & Events

Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition
Monday, July 2, 2018
London, United Kingdom


The Canon Collins Trust is partnering with the Southbank Centre on a major free exhibition of the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013), one of the iconic figures of the 20th Century, which will open at Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 17th July 2018 and will run through to Sunday 19th August. 

Jointly presented by the Apartheid Museum in South Africa, the Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives in the UK and Southbank Centre, the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition focuses on the life and times of Mandela and celebrates the centenary of his birth. It traces Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom through six main themes: character, comrade, leader, prisoner, negotiator and statesman. 

It is the first time the exhibition will be shown in the UK, after successful runs of various iterations in locations around the world, including six weeks at the Paris Town Hall in 2013. The UK exhibition will additionally display original items from the Anti-Apartheid Movement in hastening the end of the apartheid regime. The narrative of Mandela's extraordinary life unfolds through a series of dramatic visual panels supported with films and the display of artefacts including some seens for the first time in Britain. 

Items in the exhibition include:

  • the famous Robben Island Bible, the Collected Works of Shakespeare which was smuggled onto the Island by Teresa, the wife of Sonny Venkatrathnam, one of the jailed activists and contains original annotations made by Nelson Mandela and his contemporaries;
  • one of the pick axes which Mandela and his colleagues used in the lime quarry on Robben Island, on display in the UK for the first time;
  • letter of thanks from Mandela to the British public, on display for the first time ever. Written on the 16th April 1990, the day Mandela attended the Wembley concert held in his honour, he thanks the British public for their ‘overwhelming generosity’. 

The exhibition will be free and open to the tens of thousands of visitors to Southbank Centre during its run to experience the visual presentation of Mandela’s life of struggle, reflection and leadership. 

Associated Events
The exhibition will be complemented by several associated events offering a variety of activities to engage, enlighten and inspire a range of audiences. On the eve (Monday 16th July) of the exhibition opening there will be a Mandela Legacy Debate with invited panellists which will explore Mandela’s achievements and what his life has meant and continues to mean for future generations. There will be an exclusive private view of the exhibition for those attending the debate which will be ticketed but free. 
In addition to this students, school pupils and families will be able to learn about the historical context of apartheid and Mandela’s life-long struggle against racism and violent oppression through the interactive youth trail which will guide participants through the six stages of Mandela’s life, posing interactive questions, culminating in an ask to participants to say in twenty-five words how they would make the world a better place. The competition will be judged by the various partner organisations including the Canon Collins Trust.
There will also be showings of the new documentary: Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes, directed by Sir Nicholas Stadlen (27th-29th July); and Matthew Hahn will conduct staged readings from Robben Island Shakespeare. Booking details related to the additional events will be announced in due course. 

Mandela's daughter, and great-granddaughters will also be discussing their children's book on Mandela's life, 'Grandad Mandela' on 16th August 2018 in the Purcell Room. Their touching book explores what it means to be the family of a man they hardly knew, while the rest of the world regarded him as their own. 

On 18th August, Shameela Seedat's rivoting film on Advocate Thuli Madonsela will be shown at the Royal Festival Hall. 'Whispering Truth to Power' tells the story of quietly-spoken former public protector and Advocate Thuli Madonsela, who in her last year of office raced to finish her devastating report on the former president, his family and associates and their alleged role in state capture, jeopardising the country's hard won democracy. 


For further information on the event, please contact Canon Collins Chair of Trustees, John Battersby at