Mandela & Manchester Museum

Several months ago I decided to change the appearance of this blog. I wanted the lead graphic to be an image of an object that exemplified the Manchester Museum mission to promote understanding between cultures. I knew immediately which object this had to be, one of the seven voter education posters from the 1994 South African general election. This election marked the end of apartheid and saw the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president.

Voter education poster, 1994, South Africa. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection.

Voter education poster, 1994, South Africa. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection.

These posters and a facsimile voting slip were donated in 1994 by Professor Frank Jolles from the University of Natal, South Africa. Among the predominately colonial collection of ethnography these brightly coloured posters lambently resist, both aesthetically and intellectually, the other objects around them. Their progressive post-colonial and anti-apartheid message offer an invaluable juxtaposition to the 19th and early 20th century ethnographic narrative.

Voter education poster, 1994, South Africa. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection.

Voter education poster, 1994, South Africa. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection.

UK museums have greatly advanced their engagement with post-colonial discourse and increasingly diverse users. This is an extant and ambitious process not without contest. The result has been to position museums and their collections as fundamental components in the action of understanding both local and global cultural diversity. These posters articulate this mission perfectly and offer a continuing source of inspiration. Thank you Nelson Mandela.

 

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