Gandhi, Mandela come together in art exhibition

Two exhibitions across South Africa — one capturing the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and the other on Indo-South African cricketing ties — look closely at cultural bonds between the two countries.

Written by Divya A | Updated: June 10, 2014 1:07:34 pm
Photographs of Gandhi in South Africa. Photographs of Gandhi in South Africa.

Late last year, the Ministry of Culture decided to resuscitate its flagship Festivals of India initiative. Starting July 18, there will be a mega multi-city edition in South Africa – being tipped as one of the biggest events under the initiative. The date assumes more significance as it falls on the birthday of anti-apartheid revolutionary, and former South African President Nelson Mandela, who passed away in December last year. Besides events related to food, dance, films and Hindi literature, the highlights of the 45-day carnival are two travelling art exhibitions  — one documenting the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, called “Soul Mates”, and the other on Indo-South African cricketing ties.

“Soul Mates” has been curated by Prashant Kidambi, who teaches Colonial Urban History at the University of Leicester, UK.
Besides photographs documenting the life of Gandhi and Mandela, “Soul Mates” will also have some priceless archival matter on display such as Gandhi’s life in South Africa where he practised as a lawyer, his Class X marksheet, and even the FIR registered in South Africa upon his assassination. The material has been sourced from the National Archives of India, and its counterpart in Pretoria, National Archives of South Africa. Some material has also been sourced from the Nelson Mandel a Foundation, Johannesburg, and Peace Truth Ahimsa Museum, Hyderabad.

“The core of this exhibition is to present the similarities between the two leaders, trace their path and plot the trajectory. The viewer would be surprised at the number of times they run parallel to each other,” says V Srinivas, Director-General, National Archives of India.

To highlight this, an interactive 20×7 ft Mandela-Gandhi wall will be erected, similar to the Gandhi-Martin Luther King wall at Howard University, Washington (USA). This wall will engage visitors to learn more about the two leaders, using smartphones, tablets and index cards. Besides, there are three other sections —  The Making of Mahatma and Madiba, documenting the first 30 years of their lives, family and education; A Legacy of 144 Years, traversing the years from 1869 to 2013, putting the two leaders in context to the histories of India and South Africa; and The Transformation, major events that shaped their lives between the age of 30 and 60 years.

On display are a list of the Junagarh and Jetpur Scholarships awarded to him; correspondence related to his work at the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa, and the evolution of his satyagraha philosophy between 1909 and 1946. As for Mandela, 16 photographs taken during his multiple visits to India between 1990 and 2001 are also being put up for public viewing.

The exhibition will start at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on July 18, and will continue to be on display there till August 10. It will then travel to Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Nelspruit for a fortnight each, culminating in November.

The cricket exhibition on the other hand, begins on July 26, at the Wanderers stadium, in Johannesburg. On August 15, it shifts to Kingsmead Sahara Stadium in Durban, and continues there till August 31, to coincide with the finale of the Festival of India. Besides showcasing 175 significant cricketing moments captured on camera, between 1991 and 2012, there will also be some cricket-related memorabilia on display. A cricket workshop for youngsters is also being worked out.

This story appeared in print with the headline The Africa Connect

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