Mandela: The Official Exhibition
Exhibit at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation®
- October 21, 2023-January 15, 2024
- Time: 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
- Location: The Gallery by General Motors
Free for members or with museum admission.
Mandela: The Official Exhibition takes guests on a personal journey through the life of the world’s most iconic freedom fighter and political leader, Nelson Mandela.
An immersive and interactive experience, the exhibition features previously unseen film, photos and the display of over 150 historical artifacts and personal effects on loan from the Mandela family, museums and archives worldwide. Through a series of immersive zones — each one a dramatically different experience — you will be taken on a journey through his remarkable life. His epic story is told in a series of experiential galleries, from his rural childhood home through years of turbulent struggle against the apartheid regime to his eventual vindication and final years as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
A century on from his birth, what does Nelson Mandela mean today in a world where inequality and injustice are still rife? Mandela: The Official Exhibition asks these difficult questions and examines his legacy. Mandela’s values and commitment to making the world a better place are just as vital now as they were during his lifetime. This is a story we can all learn from and be inspired by.
Your Experience Includes:
- Fresh insight into the people, places and events that formed Mandela’s character and the challenges he faced.
- Previously unseen film, photos and over 150 historical artifacts and personal effects on loan from the Mandela family, museums and archives worldwide.
- Mandela’s suit worn for the opening of the South African parliament in 1996.
- Mandela’s traditional headdress gifted to him by the king of the Xhosa people, Xolilzwe Sigcawu, as he awarded Mandela the ancient tribal warrior honor of the Isithwalandwe Sesizwe.
- Mandela’s presidential desk and chair and his iconic beige trench coat, on display for the first time in two decades.
- Immersive media presentations and scenic recreations, enabling guests to actively engage with and experience key moments in Nelson Mandela’s life.
Inside the Exhibition:
Gallery 1: Meeting Mandela
An introductory multimedia presentation offers an overview of Mandela’s life and times, serving as a preview of the exhibition. It sets the tone by reminding visitors of the evils of the apartheid government and then quickly walks through Mandela’s accomplishments, from freedom fighter to president and humanitarian.
Gallery 2: Early Years (1918-1941)
Learn about the people and places — Mvezo, Qunu and Mqhekezweni — that shaped Mandela as a child and young man, and the roles these places played in defining his personality, philosophy and style of leadership.
Gallery 3: “The Struggle Is My Life” (1941-1964)
The making of Mandela. See Nelson Mandela’s transformation as a lawyer and activist, a rising star in the African National Congress and a thorn in the side of the nationalist government. Also learn of the heavy cost of his defiance: the loss of family and liberty that would profoundly affect him for the rest of his life. Nelson Mandela made a defining life choice — to do what he believed was right, no matter what the consequences, even at the risk of sacrificing his own life.
Gallery 4: 10,000 Days: The Prison Years (1964-1990)
For many years, a life in prison without hope of reprieve seemed to be Nelson Mandela’s fate. Explore how his personality and determination helped to shape and steer a particular culture on Robben Island. See how his determination and intellect set him apart, not just as one of the leaders of an outlawed freedom-fighting movement, but as a man determined to show respect and kindness to all, and in doing so, encouraging others to engage and change.
Gallery 5: Freedom? (1990-1994)
Nelson Mandela may have appeared to be a free man the day he walked out of Victor Verster prison, but it was not his destiny to lead a quiet, normal life. What happened next was extraordinary. Realize just how close to the edge of total civil war South Africa was before the landmark 1994 election. As South Africa’s newly enfranchised population went to the polling stations, did anyone really know what freedom looked like? Did anyone have any real idea about what would happen next?
Gallery 6: Healing a Nation (1994-2013)
Reexamine Nelson Mandela’s presidency and the following retirement years when he was anything but retired. This extraordinary chapter in his life is characterized by huge energy, the endless movement of international travel and his dedication and determination to fulfill his life’s mission.
Gallery 7: The Meaning of Mandela
Conclude your journey through the exhibition with a reflective and emotionally resonant experience where Nelson Mandela sends you off in his own words and inspires you to carry on his work.
Public Speaking Events and Programs
#MyMandela Leadership Connections Tour: Taking Risks
#MyMandela Leadership Connections Tour: Collaboration
Musical Performances by Breathe + Move-Ment
Musical Performance by Miryam Johnson
“Nelson Mandela: Leadership Lessons for Today,” Author talk and panel, co-presented by the City of Detroit Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship Division
Screening of “Mandela in Detroit: A Mission of Freedom”
“#MyMandela Through the Arts,” Impact Discussion with Peace Bell
#MyMandela Through the Arts,” Impact Discussion with April "Anue" Shipp
"#MyMandela Youth Summit: Activism Beyond the Hashtag" Panel Discussion
Musical Performance by the William S. Harrison Chorale
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. | Programming Series
Culinary and Retail Experiences
Plum Market Kitchen & Baobab Fare Culinary Collaboration
On-Site Chef Discussions
Themed “Inspiring Stories” Retail Collection
Featured Films at Giant Screen Experience
The Color of Friendship (2000)
Long Night's Journey into Day: South Africa's Search for Truth & Reconciliation (2000)
Connect With Us on Social Media and Share Your #MyMandela Story
Nelson Mandela has touched many lives around the world, but especially right here in southeast Michigan. Shortly after he was released from prison, he embarked on an eight-city tour across the United States and, in June 1990, spoke to thousands at Tiger Stadium.
This moment in history impacted the lives of many who attended and others who continue to reflect on Mandela’s life.
Here at The Henry Ford, we believe that everyone’s #MyMandela story deserves to be heard. Over the duration of the exhibition, we encourage you to share your #MyMandela story with us on your favorite social channels and be a part of this moment in history. Engage with us using the hashtag #MyMandela to share your personal connection, thoughts and feelings about this iconic figure and to contribute to the ongoing legacy of Nelson Mandela.
- Instagram: @thehenryford
- Facebook: The Henry Ford
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- YouTube: thehenryford
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Exhibition Produced By:
Mandela: The Official Exhibition is produced by Round Room Live in partnership with The Royal House of Mandela (RHoM) and RHoM Investments.
The Early Years
Scene from The Early Years, a gallery depicting Nelson Mandela’s childhood experiences including his African traditions, culture and heritage.
The Struggle is My Life
View of The Struggle is My Life, a gallery is dominated by a powerful imagery of apartheid’s oppression.
The Prison Years
The powerful prison cell immersive animation uses text from Nelson Mandela’s letters as a personal audio-visual timeline his 27-year imprisonment.
Healing a Nation
Image of Healing a Nation a space that celebrates unification and reconciliation. It highlights Nelson Mandela’s dedication and determination to fulfil his life’s mission.