In celebration of 20 years of democracy in South Africa this year, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is hosting a public exhibition titled “South Africa’s Democracy – Mandela’s Cherished Ideal” running for the month of September. As part of this exhibition, the University of Cape Town Alumni Trust arranged to screen the UK premiere of a short film by Mark J. Kaplan: Madiba Remembered: UCT Looks Back.
The film began with recent celebrations at the university of the man, and the legend, following his passing in December 2013. This was interspersed with historic footage of protest by students (most notoriously in 1988 where police retaliated with teargas) and the campaigns to free Mandela.
A wonderful aspect was the volume of emotional personal stories of interaction and joy told by UCT Alumni including the cartoonist and political satirist Jonathan Shapiro – better known by his pen name Zapiro.
Clearly and lovingly demonstrated throughout the film was Mandela’s own warmth that he brought to every occasion, and his ability to make whomever he was speaking to feel like the most important person in the room. His humble nature shone through, as well as his all-inclusive attitude and above all, love for his country.
A wonderful example of this was an excerpt from a speech he delivered at the university in 2004 where he relayed a conversation he had after being released from prison with the then ANC leader Oliver Tambo. Tambo had said to Mandela that he should take his place as the leader of the ANC, to which Mandela replied, how could he explain to the people that someone who has been ‘resting on an island’ for 20 years can come out and push a tireless leader who has been working 24 hours a day aside. Laughter and applause erupted from the audience in the film as well as ourselves.
The film was a joyous remembrance of how he seemed to effortlessly cement his place in the hearts of all South Africans, and how many of us feel personally connected to him even without meeting him.
The evening was also the launch of Zapiro’s new book: Democrazy: SA’s Twenty-Year Trip – “from Amandla to Nkandla and everything in between” and we were treated to a live Q&A session with the man himself via skype.
|Zapiro – mid word|
The book is a fantastic chronicle of South Africa’s developing democracy, keenly observed and humorously depicted by Zapiro whose razor wit has not dulled during his career.
|Twenty years of cartoon genius|
He described himself as a ‘visual columnist’, spoke of finding inspiration all around him and how he knows his role as a satirist is to stay one step ahead, to ‘shoot from the hip’ and of the challenge of remaining current.
He touched on Mandela’s continuing presence as a character despite his death. Acting as a kind of moral conscience in the minds of South Africans in the way that Ghandi and Martin Luther King are ever present.
He mentioned the change in attitude of government from Mandela accepting his critical works as part of his job, to President Jacob Zuma suing him for defamation not once, but twice. The sentiment is wonderfully expressed by quotes on the back cover of the book.
Zapiro remains unapologetic and stands by his works. Inspiring us to question, he continues to illustrate what many of us are already thinking, and despite legal challenges his ambition remains undented – demonstrated by his continuing portrayal of Zuma with a dripping showerhead hanging over his head.
The final words to Zapiro came from Paul Weinberg, photographer and curator of the exhibition, who plainly stated ‘don’t retire’ which is a sentiment, I believe, shared by many.
I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a signed copy following the event.
|Showing off my signed copy|
The event as a whole was very warm and celebratory. There was an unspoken sense of pride amongst the attendees and a quiet acknowledgement of what we have managed to achieve as a country under the guidance of Mandela’s example. A demonstration to the world of what can be achieved by focussing on the needs of the many instead of the few.
The exhibition runs from the 1st to the 26th September – details at this link: