- Article by Online Editor
Sign up for our newsletter
Above: Alessandro Di Sessa
A few hours ago, South African President Jacob Zuma announced that after months of serious illness, Nelson Mandela had died in his home, surrounded by family.
A South African anti-Apartheid activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and once President of South Africa (1994 to 1999), Mandela was viewed the world over as a revolutionary powered by love, devotion, patience and resilience, known for his kindness and charm, even when engaging his opponents.
Mandela’s early life as a lawyer and founding member of the African National Congress’ (ANC) Youth League saw him deeply involved in anti-colonial politics. After the Afrikaner nationalists of the National Party came to power in 1948 and began implementing the policy of Apartheid, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign and was elected President of the Transvaal ANC Branch. Over the next 10 years, Mandela was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities, although avoided imprisonment, until his involvement with the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961, leading a bombing campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, visualised by artists and designers across the globe.
Anti-Apartheid Movement, London
David King for the Anti-Apartheid Movement, United Kingdom 1977
Rupert Garcia for the Liberation Support Movement, New York
Left: Alberto Blanco, Cuba 1987. Right: Soviet Union stamp, 1988
Mandela’s freedom was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. He was made President of the ANC and led negotiations with then President, F.W. de Klerk, to abolish Apartheid and establish multiracial elections. In 1994 he succeeded, and on the 27th April, now celebrated as Freedom Day, Mandela became President of South Africa and formed the Government of National Unity.
Anti-Apartheid Movement London, United Kingdom 1990
International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, London
Kim Berman Fund for a Free South Africa, Boston 1990
In 1999, Mandela declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Instead, he became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work for the rest of his life, focussing on poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
In May of this year, a group of South African designers launched a celebration of the life of Mandela on the occasion of his 95th birthday. Now known as the Mandela Poster Project Collective, the group of volunteers held an open call and received more than 700 posters from designers all over the world.
Selecting 95 exceptional donations, the posters were exhibited and reproduced as limited editions as part of a fundraising program to establish Africa’s third dedicated children’s hospital in Johannesburg, which is Mandela’s final legacy wish.
Levente Szabo, Belgium
Abbas Majidi, Iran
Joel Guenoun, France
Diego Giovanni Bermudez Aguirre, Colombia
Within South Africa, Mandela is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (Father), described as “the father of the nation”. He is survived by his third wife, Graça Machel, three daughters, 18 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.