On Tuesday, June 21, the Brooklyn Museum hosted a one-night only event featuring the American debut of the Nelson Mandela Poster Project. The brainchild of a group of South African artists who wished to commemorate the 95th birthday of the inspirational leader on July 18, 2013, the 95 posters on display form a collection curated from a group of more than 700 submissions gathered from around the world. Following this initial display in Brooklyn, the 95 posters will be exhibited at multiple locations of the event’s corporate sponsor, Kalahari Resorts, throughout the United States.
Representing a wide range of stylistic and cultural influences brought together in celebration of one man, the project is most effective as a visual reminder of the potential for global unity, even in this age of turmoil both at home and abroad. In his relentless efforts to end apartheid in South Africa, Mandela, who passed away in December 2013, truly represented a cornerstone of progress in the twentieth century and beyond. As proven by the reach of this project, as a fighter, president, humanitarian and man, Mandela’s long life continues to serve as a lesson in perseverance, inclusivity and activism that can be felt in every corner of the world.
The opportunity to see 95 artists’ tributes to such a monumental figure in one room was nothing short of rousing. Silhouettes of the African continent, Mandela’s portrait, and depictions of specific episodes from his life – activism, imprisonment, and presidency, make recurring appearances throughout the presentation, but each artist’s specific graphic touch personalizes the posters.
Mandela’s story is one of overcoming prejudice and injustice to make the world a better place; this collection of posters both directly honors that and represents what we as people are able to achieve when we come together regardless of race, religion, or creed. That art can do this is a beautiful thing.