We love it when people and organisations come together that may not appear, on the surface, to have much in common. But – as we all know – there is more to life than surface.

Take for example the iMadiba Project and Satrix Investments. iMadiba is the brainchild of artist Erhardt Thiel, who (so far) has created 15 sculptural installations fashioned on Nelson Mandela’s prison cell at Robben Island. Satrix is a company that uses index tracking to help investors grow their wealth. And when these two entities came together, they created something magical.

Satrix has sponsored the construction of three iMadiba micro museums, one at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town, one at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, and one at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Satrix is the first corporate sponsor on the project.

Launch attendees having a conversation in the iMadiba at the JSE

The official launch took place at the JSE on 23 July 2018, where Satrix CEO, Helena Conradie, explained what brought the iMadiba Project into the financial services realm.

“Nelson Mandela left us with the concept of ‘equality for all’, which is something really special,” she said. “Built on the same principle, Satrix has been driving financial inclusion since 2000 when we launched the first exchange traded fund in South Africa. We took it a step further when we partnered with EasyEquities to introduce SatrixNOW an online platform with no minimums – you can invest R10, R50, whatever you want to.”

Helena Conradie, Satrix CEO, speaking at the iMadiba Project launch at the JSE

Helena admits that this doesn’t cover everyone.

“An online platform doesn’t matter to the 34% of South Africa’s population who don’t have bank accounts,” she said. “It doesn’t matter to those South Africans who don’t have access to technology or connectivity. So the challenges facing financial inclusion are vast, which is why we need to continue conversations around financial inclusion with urgency.

“Let’s ask the difficult questions – or even just the questions that we need to ask – and discuss how an industry that has goals on monetary incentives can also be an industry that collaborates and has a shared focus around financial inclusion.”

Artist Erhardt Thiel has heard many conversations in the iMadiba spaces and says it’s important to keep on having them.

“The vision of the iMadiba Project is to create a safe space for brutally honest conversations,” he said. “Each installation is built to the same specifications as Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, down to the thickness of the walls. But we have broken the walls down, which is not only symbolic in terms of dialogue, but also gives participants a place to sit while they have their conversations and experience the coldness of the concrete – a discomfort that Madiba experienced every day that he spent in the cell.”

iMadiba artist Erhardt Thiel speaking at the iMadiba launch at the JSE

Erhardt’s dream is to take the project much further.

“I would like to see one at the United Nations HQ in New York, at the African Union in Addis Ababa, and one at each of the 126 universities that gave Madiba an honorary doctorate. Obviously any other university, institution, company or town that wants one should have one, and I would love to work with them.”

Erhardt says the significance of the installation at the JSE is extremely relevant at the moment.

“It’s about the economic freedom that our future depends on – and we all have to work together to achievie it.”

Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation – which fully supports the iMadiba Project – reiterated the sentiments expressed by President Barak Obama at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, which took place a few days before the Satrix launch.

Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, speaking at the launch

“It’s important to engage in dialogue – especially with people you disagree with,” he said. “Otherwise it’s just a chat.”

He reminded guests never to forget that poverty is humiliating.

“We must do all we can to help pull people out of poverty,” he said.

Sello himself has experienced poverty, and shared an anecdote from his university days when he was forced to walk barefoot around campus trying to raise R20 to pay for a telephone call he had made to his mother, a domestic worker, to ask her to send him money for books.

“It was one of my most humiliating experiences and I remind myself every day how lucky I am that I can afford Happy Socks. I think that’s why I wear them, because of the name. It is easy to forget that there are many South Africans who can’t afford socks at all.

“The JSE has a key responsibility to ensure that whoever knocks, the door will be open to them. Madiba would want us to build a South Africa that is more inclusive and more caring.”

The MC for the event was Redi Tlhabi who shared that she loves to associate herself with projects such as this, and that “through dialogue and conversation we can build the South Africa of our dreams.”

Redi Tlhabi was the MC for the launch

CN&CO was delighted to see many of our partners in attendance from the financial world – including RMB’s Carolynne Waterhouse and Lucy Lightfoot; Barker Insurance Brokers’ Rhett Barker and Louise Forsyth; a quorum from EasyEquities, who presented Satrix and iMadiba with a pair of beautifully branded – and delicious – cakes to celebrate the occasion, Halls Investments’ Pete Backwell, who generously agreed to sponsor an iMadiba at the University of Mpumalanga, Thokozile Mahlangu, CEO of the Insurance Institute of South Africa.

Carly Barnes (left) and Waylon Smit (centre) of Easy Equities present Helena Conradie of Satrix with delicious cakes to celebrate financial inclusion

We were also thrilled to to be joined by many of our art-world friends, including Julia Cavalieri, Sue Martin, Ann Roberts, as well as Tim Nuttall, Ntombi Langa-Royds, Sally James, Jacqui Matlala, Khumo Morolo, and Barbara Beauchamp from St Stithians College; Michele Sparkes from Thai Africa Restaurants and the producer of Miracle Rising; Nape Phaleng from COVER, Derek Kilpin from Great Domaines; and many others.

We are very proud of our team who helped make our partner’s event a great success. Each team member played an integral part in ensuring the launch of the iMadiba Project was awesome.

Join the conversation on social media, have conversations for change in the iMadiba micro museums, and help build an iMadiba in as many places around the world as possible.