Liverpool 8 against apartheid

31 years ago today, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In 1990 the world was a very different place; I was not long into my first job and aggrieved about local and global injustices. I’d just ‘come out’, discovered animal rights and gone vegetarian, there was an unequal age of consent, the AIDS pandemic was raging and Liverpool was just getting up off its knees after years of the Conservative Government’s ‘managed decline’ of the city.

Apartheid (apartness) was a brutal system of racial segregation and white supremacy in South Africa. The world-wide anti-apartheid movement had steadily grown throughout the ’60s ’70s and ’80s in its support for Black South Africans and other minority groups living under the oppressive system. For a small and distant city, the wrongs of apartheid rang loudly in Liverpool. Whilst not actively involved, I was aware of a local movement against apartheid and the campaign to Free Nelson Mandela. As a politically aware young man, I knew what was going on and did my best to support South African divestment, actively avoiding certain products and services that refused to do the right thing – Barclays Bank, Del Monte fruit juice etc. and I would disdainfully hiss at acts on Top of the Pops that I knew had played at Sun City, South Africa’s infamous segregated venue. And I still have my Free Nelson Mandela badge!

To celebrate Liverpool’s grass roots activity and campaigning, I was commissioned by Museum of Liverpool to create a display that explores the connections the community forged with Mandela using personal stories, artefacts, campaign materials and archive photography. Nelson Mandela’s importance to Liverpool is huge and in Toxteth/Liverpool 8, he remains a highly significant role model to the community. The exhibition was created in collaboration with the Mandela8 group.

This display is part of the Museum of Liverpool’s Our City, Our Stories programme, a partnership which enables local people to represent their own interpretation of the museum’s themes and objects. Read more about the exhibition at the link below and when museums are allowed to reopen, I encourage you to support the Museum on the waterfront by visiting the exhibition.

Exhibition link:

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