Link Worker Diary: Trip to the Nelson Mandela Exhibit

On the final week before the Easter holidays a group of excited year 9 girls from Sacred Heart School made their way on the tube to visit the Nelson Mandela Exhibition in Waterloo. “Does anyone know anything about Nelson Mandela?” I ask en route. “Wasn’t he in prison?” one says, “Didn’t he fight for black people to have rights?” says another. I tell them a little more about him, explaining what the apartheid was and how he played a significant part in ending it. Some of the group have learned about Nelson Mandela at primary school and have an idea of who he was while others are largely in the dark. All know his name and that he is somehow important.

As we arrive at the gallery, I ask the girls to pick out their favourite fact and the thing that inspires them most in the exhibition. They bustle their way in to a cinema space where the exhibition begins. As the screen flickers showing images of Nelson Mandela as a young man and the apartheid world in which he lived the girls eyes grow wide. As a culturally diverse group living in a multi-cultural city this is a very different world to the one they exist in.

They move around the exhibition, some slowly and methodically reading carefully the newspaper articles outlining massacres and uprisings and others are more interested in taking selfies next to images of Nelson after his release from Robin Island. They all interact differently with the exhibition, which is interactive in nature with films, photographs, artefacts and audio clips.

After an hour we congregate back at the entrance. I go through the group asking them their favourite facts and what they learned which they can take with them. Their responses were thoughtful and affirming. Here are some that stood out…
“To be brave and always stand up for what you believe in”
“That in order to realise your dreams you have to make sacrifices”
“Not to just follow what other people do if you think it’s wrong”
“We are all equal whatever we look like”
“The answer is not to look for revenge but to look for peace”

It seems that even though their worlds in London in 2019 may look different to that of apartheid South Africa the lessons learned by Nelson Mandela in that time are still as relevant as ever. We all left a little wiser on the way back to Hammersmith.

together, every child and young person can flourish.