Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition opens at Melbourne Museum

Experience a rare and touching glimpse into the personal life of Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela ©Keith Bernstein

Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition is now open at Melbourne Museum, providing visitors a glimpse into the extraordinary personal life of Nelson Mandela. Produced by Museums Victoria, iEC Exhibitions TEG Live and in full collaboration with The Nelson Mandela Foundation of South Africa, this brand-new world class exhibition will open exclusively in Melbourne, Australia, before embarking on a 5-year world-wide tour from 2019.

Mandela, My Life: the Official Exhibition the exhibition will feature the most comprehensive collection of original artefacts, documents, personal items and artworks ever to be shown outside of South Africa. With over 200 artefacts from The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Nelson Mandela's private collection, the exhibition has been curated across 10 galleries and guides visitors through an emotive journey that is multi-sensory, collections rich and interactive.

Through a newly created cinematic experience, GALLERY 1 invites visitors to feel the power and emotion of one of the most dramatic and significant moments of Mandela's life – the moment he puts apartheid on trial. Visitors will experience the original sound recording of Nelson Mandela's Rivonia Trial speech in 1964, accompanied by a powerful and immersive new film piece placing visitors in the courtroom as he delivers his speech.

In GALLERY 2 visitors explore Mandela's family and journey from child to man through a spectacular seven-metre-long scenic projection wall of animations and landscapes. Elements of Mandela’s childhood will be brought to life in an audio-visual piece using his own words and images of his childhood homes in the Transkei to animate his memories of some of the most formative events and influences on his young life.

GALLERY 3 explores how and why certain influences shaped a young Mandela with original objects, film and documents enabling visitors to delve into the early life of Mandela as he established himself in Johannesburg. Personal items include photographs of Mandela with his first wife Evelyn and their children, and his second marriage to Winnie. This gallery also examines a history of apartheid and the systems of 'apartness' that left a lasting impression on Mandela and motivated his political activism.

GALLERY 4 provides an insight into the covert nature of Mandela's daily existence and activities during his period of underground operations when Mandela was dubbed the Black Pimpernel. The earliest known film footage of Mandela during a break in the Treason Trial will be displayed in this gallery. Mandela was one of 156 defendants, along with members of all other anti-apartheid movements, in a trial that was designed to dismantle the People’s Congress Alliance and attack the Freedom Charter.

Comprised of small cell-like rooms, based on Mandela's time in prison including at Robben Island, GALLERY 5 explores aspects of Mandela's life in prison. Film and photographs of the isolated prison at Robben Island set the scene; letters between Mandela and his family and audio of Mandela personally recounting his experiences provide an insight into the emotional impact of his long imprisonment. There is also material depicting the growth of the global campaign for his release and an exclusive interview with Mandela's last prison guard featured in this rich gallery.

Walking into GALLERY 6, visitors will be able to see and hear the events of Mandela’s first day of freedom on 11 February 1990 when he was released from Victor Verster prison. A wall of film, images and sound will show the progression of Mandela from that very first day, to his election and inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. Objects on display include a replica of the gold Parker pen with which Mandela signed the interim constitution of 1993; a replica of the Nobel Peace Prize Mandela and FW de Klerk received for peaceful negotiations and some of the original hand-written drafts for Mandela’s autobiography, 'Long Walk to Freedom'.

Against a backdrop of two images of Mandela as a President who loved to meet people especially children, GALLERY 7 will present the landmark years of Mandela’s Presidency through film, photographs and objects. His original appointments diary from 1997 are displayed, along with mementos of his inauguration in 1994. Film will illustrate Mandela’s strategic, conciliatory approach to governing a country going through profound and tempestuous change, and his success in bringing South Africa back onto the international stage through a busy calendar of visits overseas.

At the centre of GALLERY 8 are the original chairs from Mandela’s post Presidential office at his Foundation in Johannesburg. From these chairs he met and talked with many of the hundreds of world leaders, celebrities and people who sought him out during his retirement. A selection of some of Mandela’s favourite original ‘Madiba Shirts’, the colourful patterned shirts he became famous for wearing, will also be on display. Included in this gallery is the boxing glove signed and gifted by Muhammad Ali to Mandela, who was an avid boxing fan and met Ali several times after 1990.

GALLERY 9 will feature 95 heartfelt messages to Mandela from around the world, recorded in the ten days of mourning after his death, each message representing a year of his life. Visitors will be able to listen to these while watching film footage of Mandela’s final journey from Johannesburg to his ancestral home in Qunu in the Transkei in December 2013.

In GALLERY TEN, 16 original artworks by acclaimed South African artist, John Meyer, will be displayed. Each painting depicts an event or theme of Mandela's life as imagined by the artist, from his rural boyhood in Qunu through his years as a dedicated lawyer in the lively Johannesburg of the 1950s to the hardships of jail and his achievements as President of South Africa and a global leader.

Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition is a brand-new, world-class exhibition exclusively opening in Melbourne, Australia before commencing on a 5-year worldwide tour from 2019. The exhibition will commemorate, illuminate and most importantly share Nelson Mandela’s living legacy with the world. Tickets are on sale now at

Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition
22 September 2018 – 3 March 2019
Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street. Carlton, Victoria, 3053
Adult tickets from $22.00
Junior tickets from $17.90
School / group bookings available

Press images available here.

Media enquiries:

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Media and Communications Team
Museums Victoria
[email protected]
0466 622 621

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