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New Children’s Museum exhibit explores life of Nelson Mandela

Taking a deep dive into the life of Nelson Mandela

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new exhibit showcasing the life of a civil rights icon opens at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis this weekend.

“Mandela: The Official Exhibition” starts with Nelson Mandela’s early years growing up in rural South Africa.

According to museum officials, many of the artifacts on display were not seen outside of South Africa until the exhibit started traveling in 2019.

It’s separated into five sections, examining the different chapters of his life including his imprisonment, presidency, and later his legacy on the world.

Aaron Bonds, director of actor interpretation and theater for the museum, says the exhibit does a great job of guiding visitors through his formative years.

“Mandela talks about in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom” that he really felt free as a child as a young man free to roam the hills as he describes it,” Bonds said. “It wasn’t until he moved to Johannesburg that he started to understand that many of the freedoms that he thought he had had already been taken from him.”

It then shows how he navigated decades of Apartheid — the legal segregation in place at the time in his home country.

“[in Johannesburg] he started to see what life was like for other black South Africans living in Johannesburg. And it was that, that really decided and sparked him to decide to fight against and uh apartheid in those injustices.”

It also explores his 27 years in prison, and later the momentum gained to end Apartheid.

“That was just a really difficult time for Winnie Mandela and her family,” Bonds said. “There was harassment. There were unfortunately times when she actually found herself imprisoned … That was just a really volatile time for them as a family.

The museum recommends the exhibit for children 12 and older because of the reading required.

Regardless, Bonds says it shows off a pivotal part of history that all ages should learn.

“[Our team] worked to find ways to make sure that … we can kind of meet families where they are with their understanding of this great icon,” Bonds said. “[So we can] bring these lessons from his life to our Children.”

“Mandela: The Official Exhibition” opened to Children’s Museum members on Friday. It opens to the public on Saturday morning.

It will be in Indianapolis until January 2025.