The world premiere Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition opened on Saturday 22nd September 2018, at the prestigious Melbourne Museum, sharing the story of Mandela’s rich and remarkable life.

Producers iEC Exhibitions, TEG Live and Museums Victoria, in collaboration with The Nelson Mandela Foundation of South Africa, are thrilled to announce new images, objects and artefacts have been added to the exhibition.

Objects that will feature in the exhibition include an original handwritten document by Mandela reflecting on the day he was released from Victor Verster Prison in 1990. The note details the uncontrollable crowds Mandela faced upon arrival at the Cape Town City Hall following his release. Nelson Mandela’s original appointments diary from 1997 will also be exhibited.

A variety of images from internationally renowned photographers including Keith Bernstein, Ernest Cole, Peter Magubane and Matthew Willman, will feature throughout the exhibition documenting the apartheid struggle and many stages of Mandela’s life from his early school days to post presidential years.

Keith Bernstein spent years photographing the public and private life of Nelson Mandela. In 1994, Bernstein spent a month as Nelson Mandela’s photographer in the weeks leading up to his election as President. Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition will include 14 of Bernstein’s images. The exhibition will also feature 16 images from one of South Africa’s most distinguished photojournalists, Dr Peter Magubane. Dr. Magubane became internationally renowned for his brave and unrelenting coverage of the anti-apartheid struggles and consequently cost him close to two years in solitary confinement. Dr. Magubane was selected as Mandela’s official photographer to capture the country’s four-year transition to democracy.

Matthew Willman spent much of his career as a commissioned photographer for The Nelson Mandela Foundation in addition to more than ten years of service for Mandela himself. Willman was Mandela’s personal photographer during his post-presidential life and many of these images will feature in Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition. Ernest Cole was a freelance photographer, working for publications such as Drum magazine, The Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Express. Cole’s photographs provided unflinching glimpses of the harshness and oppression of life under apartheid in South Africa. Cole sadly passed away at the age of 49 in 1990 since then, his collection is overseen by the Ernest Cole Family Trust.

These objects and images will join the previously announced boxing glove signed and gifted by Muhammad Ali to Mandela, who was an avid boxing fan and met Ali several times after 1990, the shoes and walking cane used by Mandela in his senior years as well as some of his favourite ‘Madiba shirts’ that brightened the corridors of power.

The Pass Laws Act of 1952 required all black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry a passbook and was brutally enforced as part of the apartheid regime until it’s abolition in 1986. In 1960, Nelson Mandela burnt his passbook following the massacre of anti-passbook protesters at Sharpeville. An original and rare passbook that belonged to a young man and was signed by Nelson Mandela will be on display at the exhibition. This is an extremely rare object as few people cared to hold on to their passbooks once the pass laws had been abolished.

The exhibition will also feature a rich archive of images, film and sound recordings including film footage of what is believed to be the earliest film of Nelson Mandela being interviewed during a break in the ‘Treason Trial’ of 1956-1961. 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.

Providing a rare and touching glimpse into the personal life of Nelson Mandela, this official Mandela exhibition has been curated into ten galleries in the Touring Hall at Melbourne Museum and explores his difficult and sometimes controversial life fighting for equality and democracy.

After exclusively opening in Melbourne, Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition will be viewed by over two million visitors over five years. This official Mandela exhibition will commemorate, illuminate and most importantly share Nelson Mandela’s living legacy with the world.

Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition

22 September 2018 – 3 March 2019

Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street. Carlton, Victoria, 3053

Adult: $32

Concession (students & seniors): $22

Junior (children to 16): $17.90

Family (2x Adults & 2x Children or 1 adult & 3x children): $80

For more information, please visit:


About Kate Webster

Kate Webster is an editor and travel journalist – writer and photographer – who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate’s inspiration behind her writing and photography.
Discover More