by Selina McCallum

Upon entering the Mandela exhibit at the Meridian Arts Centre, I felt like I was walking in the footsteps of the late Nelson Mandela. From the visuals, sounds and the re-creation of Mandela’s prison cell, you are taken on a journey of Mandela’s profound fight for freedom.

The exhibit opened in Toronto on October 10, 2019, and is also known as, “The Exhibition for Everyone Who Refuses to See the World in Black and White”. As you enter, the back wall is covered with a collage of signs and billboards from apartheid era South Africa that read “ Whites Only,” “Non-White Entrance Only,” “Waiting Room For Coloured Only,”

Apartheid, a policy of segregation and discrimination on grounds of race, was created by the National Party after it took power in 1948. It resulted in the White minority controlling 92 percent of the land in South Africa. In the exhibit, one description reads, “Black, Indian and coloured communities constantly faced dispossession under apartheid law. People could be forcibly removed from their homes at any time if their communities were declared “white areas.”

Walking around the space, you get a sense of who Mandela was. He believed in the right  of people to defend themselves against oppression. On television, a screen plays an old interview in black and white of Mandela speaking to the interviewer about protesting peacefully to make a change.

The exhibit was originally created for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Toronto is the first to set their eyes on the empowering and inspiring exhibit. In fact, when Mandela was freed, the first place he visited outside of Africa was Toronto.

The Mandela Exhibit invites the conversation if discrimination and segregation are still prominent in our communities in Toronto today. Canada’s history has not always been a peaceful one, as First Nations in this land also experienced being removed from their homes and separated from their children. Much of what the Black, Indian and coloured communities felt in South Africa during the apartheid, is how many First Nations felt in Canada.

Tickets to the Mandela Exhibit can be bought until the exhibit leaves on January 5, 2020. 

Do not miss the opportunity to tour the events of Mandela’s lifetime and educate yourself on Mandela’s efforts to rebuild a nation shattered by racism and injustice.

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