We are delighted to be involved in the iMadiba Project; a global project celebrating Nelson Mandela and his legacy, while creating conversations for change. Through the project we are building art installations, or micro museums, based on the exact dimensions of the Robben Island cell where the late president spent most of his 27 years in prison.

We love art and we believe in the power of art to bring about positive change in our country. Creating conversation and having meaningful engagement is part of our DNA at CN&CO so our involvement in a project of this magnitude (and with such a positive impact on the world) is easy to understand.

We believe that through this project we can help contribute to positive change and necessary conversation in our country and in the world. Through the iMadiba Project we plan to build the world’s largest global museum for reflection and conversation in Mandela’s honour by building one museum at a time in as many spaces across the globe as possible.

The iMadiba Project was conceptualised and created by Stellenbosch-based photographer and artist, and friend of CN&CO, Erhardt Thiel. Erhardt’s dream is to erect at least 100 installations in Madiba’s centenary year, ending 17 July 2019, and to continue to grow this project globally.

The iMadiba micro museums are built in partnership with and in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation; the project also produces income for the foundation. The project is a key part of the foundation’s work in honouring Madiba and creating conversations.

The project has been made possible through the support of sponsors, and the ongoing need is to find more sponsors as the project grows. Satrix, our partner, are the first corporate sponsor on the project.

It has gained great momentum. To date, there are installations at the University of Stellenbosch, Paul Roos Gymnasium, and Jan Marais Park in Stellenbosch. Erhardt, the artist, also built one made of wood which was burnt in the Tankwa Karoo at AfrikaBurn 2018. The next micro museums will be unveiled soon in Mthatha and Qunu in the Eastern Cape, and at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and St Stithians College in Gauteng.

The St Stithians College installation has been donated by alumni and the chair and deputy chair of the school’s council. Our connections to St Stithians are many; one of these is that we have a number of St Stithians alumni in the CN&CO family including Carel, Allan, and Lethabo-Thabo so there is great synergy here.

iMadiba copies at the Stellenbosch University Museum (left) and Paul Roos Gymnasium

Breaking down walls

While the structure of the micro museum is a recreation of Madiba’s Robben Island cell, the walls have intentionally been broken down. The physical structure represents what the micro museum is capable of: breaking down walls. This speaks to the ability of the iMadiba micro museums to help people to break down walls and build strong foundations for a better and brighter future. Conversations in the micro museums are dialogues where the lack of walls means that anyone from anywhere can join the conversation and help build our future.

About the artist and his inspiration

Erhardt is a photographer and artist who was inspired to create the installations as a way for people to identify themselves within Madiba’s legacy.

He wanted to create a project that could get people to actively associate themselves with the value systems of South Africa’s former president. In naming the site or discussing it, we must use the words “I” and “Madiba” and this opens our minds to finding ways in which we can emulate his values.

As a student Erhardt photographed Madiba in 1991 when Madiba spoke at Stellenbosch University (Erhardt’s alma mater) for the first time. Madiba spoke through a megaphone, and Erhardt sees the iMadiba Project as a megaphone for Nelson Mandela’s legacy – a way to amplify his legacy.

Erhardt also sees these micro museums as “listeners’ corners” rather than “speakers’ corners”; it is where people from all walks of life can get to know and understand each other in the spirit of acceptance.

Completed and planned installations

The micro museums at Stellenbosch University Museum, Paul Roos Gymnasium, Marais Park in Stellenbosch, and the copy burnt at AfrikaBurn are artist copies.

The following micro museums are already in existence:
Copy #1: Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg
Copy #2: Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha
Copy #3: Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu
Copy #4: Nelson Mandela Gateway to the Robben Island Museum at the Waterfront in Cape Town

There are a number of micro museums which are being built this month. These are at:
Copy #5: Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton
Copy #6: Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton
Copy #7: St Stithians College in Sandton
Copy #8: National Gallery in Cape Town

Copies at the Nelson Mandela Foundation (left) and at the grave of Ahmed Kathrada

There is a special copy at the grave of Ahmed Kathrada in Johannesburg, and another special copy is planned for the Tutu Peace Museum in Cape Town. Both of these symbolise their collective friendships with the late president.

The indoor copy at the Education Centre on Robben Island is another special copy as is the one planned at the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. This one, at the square, is a mobile copy and will be unveiled on 16th July 2018.

This is an exciting project with global impact and we are delighted to be working on something as inspiring as this, particularly in the year of Madiba’s centenary.

We invite South Africans and people around the world to commission one of these micro museums and to use them to emulate Madiba’s legacy while helping to build a better tomorrow for us all.