18 July 2010

Mandela Day: a universal symbol of social justice

Poster advertising an event organised in celebration of Mandela's 67th birthday, SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_087718 July, 2010 is the 92nd birthday of Nelson Mandela, also known affectionately as 'Madiba'. Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being charged and sentenced for sabotage during the Rivonia Trial. During this time he became an international icon of South Africa's liberation struggle. Recognized as the legitimate leader of a free South Africa, the international solidarity movement rallied for his release.

Free Mandela

Major international events in support of Mandela's release formed an important part of the international solidarity movement. During the late 1980s, celebrating Madiba's birthday became a popular way of raising political awareness about South African apartheid, as well as urging for Mandela's release. Birthday tributes reminded the world, and the apartheid government, that the world would not accept the tyranny of the apartheid system.

The cultural boycott of South Africa was central to raising awareness of the plight of a nation divided by itself, with international artists boycotting performances in the country. Mandela's plight was the focus of numerous songs and tributes composed for him by popular artists and bands.

 With devastating crime, poverty and mortality rates in South Africa by the mid 1980s, coupled with mounting political instability, and a permanent state of emergency, the urgency of pressuring the South African government to end apartheid escalated.

70th birthday tribute poster with photographs of Nelson and his wife, Winnie, SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_4456

Public events played a large role in this. On 11 June, 1988, a musical festival, broadcast worldwide, was held at London's Wembley Stadium. Hundreds of millions of viewers were able to participate in the celebration of Mandela's 70th birthday. Affinity with Mandela not only gave the world a way of voicing their opposition to apartheid, but has since come to serve as a universal example of social justice. Nelson Mandela is also recognised as an example of leadership, and a testament to how much of an impact the individual can have on society. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formally declared 18 July as Mandela Day: a day meant to remind the world about the immense power of taking action. The day is celebrated worldwide, with music, art and educational events.

Learn more about Mandela Day, and how you can participate in the event.

Mandela in SAHA collections

A wide variety of research material related to Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress, and the struggle movement is available in SAHA's collections. For speeches and statements by Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and other ANC icons, please see specific references in the collections listed below:

AL2457 :: The Original SAHA Collection

This collection includes exclusive original copies of two statements made by Mandela in his capacity as Deputy President of the ANC:

AL2448 :: The Portraits of ANC Leaders

AL3129 :: Zapiro TRC Cartoon Collection

AL3282 :: Sunday Times Heritage Project (STHP) Collection


Freedom at 70: a political poster advertising Mandela's 70th birthday, AL2446_2111