An exhibition dedicated to the late anti-apartheid struggle icon and human rights activist, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, was launched on Thursday March 24 at the Old Granary building in Canterbury Street.
The exhibition, titled Truth to Power: Desmond Tutu and the Churches in the Struggle Against Apartheid, was curated in partnership with the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and celebrates the life and legacy of the Arch, as he was fondly known.
At the launch, attendees, including members of the Tutu family, Anglican Church and Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation (DLTLF), housed in the Old Granary building, among others, had the opportunity to view the exhibition, which maps his legacy in six themes:
- Apartheid Education: The Most Evil Act of All – How the apartheid-era policy of Bantu Education changed Tutu’s life and South Africa’s history
- The Struggle in the Church: Fighting a False Gospel – The church as a site of struggle between those who supported colonialism and racial oppression and those who fought against it
- Faith in Action: The Campaign for Sanctions – How apartheid’s policy of forcibly removing people of colour from areas designated for white settlement sparked international sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid state
- Protest and Peace-Making: In the Streets and Stadiums – How Tutu took every opportunity to preach defiance of apartheid in all its manifestations, to advocate for justice and to plead for peace
- Unfinished Business: Tutu, Truth and Reconciliation – The achievements of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as its unfinished business
- TU+TU = Freedom – Speaking truth for global justice – how Tutu did not stop his activism when South Africa gained democracy, choosing to continue to be an activist for justice across the world
There is also a room celebrating the relationship between the Arch and his wife, Leah Nomalizo Tutu, and another dedicated to his relationship with President Nelson Mandela.
Leah Tutu did not attend the launch due to the taxi strike, but acting CEO of the DLTLF, Phumi Nhlapo, told the Athlone News that the couple saw the beginning stages of the exhibition before the Arch died on Sunday December 26 last year, two months after his 90th birthday.
“They were able to see it a day before his birthday (on October 7). The gratitude and the tears he had to see his life showcased – I’m most grateful for the time he got to see it, but it was timely that we finished it now.”
She said the idea for the exhibition was born about three years ago, and the DLTLF were in discussions with the Apartheid Museum about the content.
She said they had a number of people contribute, who knew the Arch and gave context to the content.
She said there was not an exhibition focused entirely on the Arch and his role as an international icon and human rights activist
“Whether it’s old people or young people, they get to understand our history and the Arch’s role, but who he was as a leader. He was courageous, he was not afraid, he spoke up. He was not a politician, so he was free to voice wrongs that he encountered.”
She said the Arch intervened in so many world events that people were unaware of. “He learnt to become one of the greatest people.”
She said although the older generation could relate to the history of the content, they wanted young people to teach young people and inspire them.
“Every young person needs to stand by their values. It doesn’t matter where you come from – you can have any influence you want in the world.”
The board chairperson of the Tutu IP Trust, Dr Mamphela Ramphele said if the Arch were to speak at the launch event, he would’ve said there would not be an exhibition if he wasn’t able to stand on the shoulders of South Africa.
“The foundation has done a great job in drawing on the founders’ rich archive to represent the Arch’s important contribution in a sensitive and responsible manner.”
She said the memories of the Arch were virtually uncontainable – there was material all over the world, but there were also many that have never been gathered,
She said the exhibition tries to give a glimpse of each aspect of the Arch’s legacy. “We urge people to see beyond the beautiful pictures and glimpse the content within, for he was a human with lots of the love, humanity and compassion.
“As we honour the Arch and the time God gave us for him to teach us to be better. Although he said he stood on our shoulders, there are some things he understood much, much better.”
The curator of the exhibition at the Apartheid Museum, Emilia Potenza, said the idea was conceived after the Apartheid Museum had a temporary exhibition of the Arch’s legacy, and it became clear that the life of the Arch and the church needed a permanent exhibition. “The story of Arch and Leah and the church is a story that deserves to be told and retold and should be known by every South African.”
She said a version of the exhibition would go up in the Apartheid Museum.
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said while he never had the opportunity to meet the Arch, he felt touched by his life and legacy, and said he will use his position to live up to it.
“We want his legacy to live on, even after we are long gone, and it will now live through this exhibition”.
He said the City of Cape Town was incorporating the exhibition into its tourism plan top help put it on the map as they assist economic recovery.
He said the artwork of the Arch and the late Nelson Mandela on the Cape Town Civic Centre building will also be restored.
In his keynote address, the national minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said the exhibition honoured an iconic, peaceful figure of the anti-apartheid movement, whose heart stopped beating after 90 years of a life of self sacrifice, inspired by the fact that his people needed to enjoy freedom like every other part of the world.
“As we remember this godfather of the anti-apartheid struggle, we remember his values to show acts of kindness, humanity and his unapologetic stance against racism and sexism. We saw him fight for the LGBTQI community. He dared to take a moral stance in the African church.
“This exhibition holds the nation’s legacy and of one of our country’s most prolific intellectuals. We are here to make sure this will remain an integral part of the nation’s legacy and what better way than to launch this exhibition.”
South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, said the Arch has uplifted people who suffered in the conflict caused by apartheid.
“May his values live in us and in the way we treat others, especially the marginalised and the downtrodden.
“May his passion and desire that we should build a more compassionate and caring society live on. Let us emulate his compassion and caring.
“Long live the values embodied by Desmond Tutu!”
The exhibition is permanent, and costs R50 for adults and R25 for pensioners and students. It is free for children under 12 years old.
The Old Granary in the Cape Town CBD is open from Monday to Friday at 9:30am to 3:30pm. It is closed on public holidays.