Southbank Centre, London
Character, comrade, leader, prisoner, negotiator, statesman … this moving free show celebrates every side of Mandela’s astounding life
A free, accessible exhibition about Nelson Mandela, marking what would have been his 100th birthday, is such an indisputably good thing, it seems mean-spirited to even try to assess it critically, as if to do so were to take issue with the South African figurehead himself.
Mandela is the model of a wise, benign, dignified statesman, and the world could certainly do with more of those right now. Barack Obama pointed this out last week in Johannesburg. Giving the annual Mandela lecture, he contrasted the progressive democratic triumphs of the 1990s – such as South Africa and the collapse of the Soviet Union – with the present climate of tribalism, resentment and “strongman politics”. Addressing Mandela by his clan name, he said: “We have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and of hope.”