Former Nelson Mandela Robben Island inmate, Tom Moses and Madiba’s former private secretary, Zelda la Grange, graced Laerskool Jan van Riebeeck with their presence as the school unveiled its very own iMadiba micro-museum on Tuesday, February 12.
The iMadiba micro-museum is a global interactive art project creating conversations for change through art installations. It is based on the actual dimensions of the Robben Island cell where Madiba spent most of his 27 years of incarceration.
The brainchild of this project is a Stellenbosch-based photographer and artist, Erhardt Thiel, who in honour of Madiba conceptualised and created this project three years ago.
The vision is to erect at least 100 installations in Madiba’s centenary year, ending on July 17 2019, and to continue to grow this project globally.
“This was a progression of previous art projects that I’ve done that touched on group identity, belonging, Ubuntu, and I also based it on a previous exhibition on a photograph I did of Mandela when he, for the first time, came to our campus, Stellenbosch University in 1991,” he said.
Mr Thiel said he interpreted that as an art installation. “But all these art installations come off walls and this one can stay forever and outlive me,” he said.
He said he hopes this will stimulate for conversations that we so desperately need for the country.
He said the school approached him and fortunately he had funding which then works as a donation to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“The most important thing is to remember the past as it was, not as a smoothened-out version of what people want to believe, we need to remember the brutality of apartheid, the amount effort that went in to creating a free society and acknowledge that we’re not where we should have been already,” he said.
Ms La Grange said the fact that this day coincides so close to Madiba’s date of release 29 years ago, makes the installation more powerful for people to, in a very practical way, experience Madiba’s legacy.
“I hope the pupils will be inquisitive about what he was all about and it will help them understand the man behind the icon,” she said.
The school’s head of the governing body, Merwe Scholtz, said they are aware that Laerskool Jan van Riebeeck is a school that, because of apartheid, used to be exclusive to a certain community only.
“We strive to be a school that continues to build on Madiba’s spirit of inclusivity, community building and encouraging open conversations. That’s why the iMadiba Project is the perfect fit for our mantra. We want to send children into the world who are independent, open-minded thinkers – something that starts with having regular, meaningful conversations in a safe space,” he said.