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Nelson Mandela exhibit opens at Illinois Holocaust Museum

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Nelson Mandela and the South African struggle against apartheid are the subject of a new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

Video Transcript

- I think the time has come for us to consider in the light of our experiences in this stay at home, whether the methods which we have applied so far out of--

ARIELLE WEININGER; The new special exhibition at Illinois Holocaust museum is called Mandela: Struggle for Freedom.

JOHN DAVIS: I'm very excited and pleased that the Holocaust museum has brought this exhibit to Illinois. It is really the crux of his life and the formation, really, of his thoughts, of his actions during various stages of his life.

ARIELLE WEININGER; The exhibition is divided into five different zones. Apartheid, defiance, repression, mobilization, and ultimately freedom. So it covers both the larger story of the anti-apartheid struggle. And then one of its main characters, Nelson Mandela. And what he did within that larger struggle.

- You were the first reporters to speak to him after his release.

JOHN DAVIS: Absolutely. I really got there because of a bailman at the hotel, the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg. He lived in Soweto. His name was Jacob. A diminutive little guy but-- but it turned out that Jacob was, you know-- you know, had a mouthpiece within the ANC, the African National Congress. Jacob gave me a date certain, and almost a time certain, as a Sunday, February 11 1990. He's going to be-- old man is getting out, he said. And so you must get down to Cape Town.

Sure enough, you know, that Sunday afternoon he comes walking out and basically walking right to us at the mayor's office. And I came full face with Nelson Mandela just as he had finished his speech on the balcony there. And then I just asked him a couple of questions, you know, just how it felt first of all.

And I became a little emotional and he became emotional, so we embraced each other. He struggled mightily for freedom and to have the kind of voice within the South African government that Blacks at the time deserved. And all people in South Africa deserved, but were not granted.

ARIELLE WEININGER; Our founding principle is, remember the past, transform the future. Learning about the history of Apartheid in South Africa through one of its main figures, Nelson Mandela, is perfectly suited for our museum.

JOHN DAVIS: It gives those who will visit this exhibit an opportunity to-- to see some of the smallest little things that ended up being part of this amalgam that was Mandela. It shows who he was almost step by step.