Mandela Centenary Celebrated With Programme of Portsmouth Events

 African Women’s Forum (AWF) Portsmouth are celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth by revisiting the values enacted by the revolutionary political leader during his life and time as President of South Africa, through their ‘Mandela 100’ project and programme of events.

Leading up to Mandela’s 100th birth date of 18th July 2018, AWF, a local voluntary community and charity organisation, are running a series of events which will unite the island’s tight-knit spirit and highlight the needs and difficulties of others, wherever they come from.

The project aims to provide schoolchildren, students, and the community at large the opportunity to gain new cultural skills in a naturally diverse environment. Each event will promote a deeper understanding of how individuals and groups can inspire fairness, dignity, and equality.

AWF, a non-religious and apolitical group, have created their Mandela 100 programme with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £28,100. Mandela 100 is also being supported by Portsmouth City Council, Victorious Festival, and the University of Portsmouth.

Primary and secondary school pupils and a massed community choir will be assembled to perform African songs, dances, and drum progressions at the New Theatre Royal on 17th April 2018.

A specially-choreographed dance by internationally-renowned South African ballet dancer Dane Hurst, created in honour of Mandela, will form part of the performance. The choreography was first performed in Mandela’s presence during his visit to London, as a ‘thank-you’ for his patronage to Dane.

This will be the second performance of the dance since Dane created it. Other South African artists who were close to Mandela will be featured, including Chris Lubbe, Mandela’s bodyguard after his release from 27 years of imprisonments. Another is Colin Chambers, Mandela’s spiritual guide and confidant whilst in Robben Island, and a trusted friend afterwards.

AWF are also showcasing artistic African styles in open air spaces such as the grounds of St Mary’s Church on 14th July, as well as schools, furthering the reach and impact of the Mandela 100 project to the public.

Pupils will be taught by professional international African artists through a series of workshops focused on African culture and arts. The workshops are designed to celebrate both commonality and differences.

Choirs singing African songs will be led by community choir director Janet Ayers. Anyone interested in attending the workshops should email — they’re open irrespective of ability, gender, or ethnicity.

Any creations produced at the workshops will be digitised and shared widely with schools, who will be able to showcase the work in assemblies and humanities classes.

Sport-minded locals will have the opportunity to reflect on Mandela’s use of rugby football as a tool for bringing together his ‘rainbow nation’ for the glory of their country South Africa, regardless of their differences.

AWF are fielding an RFU-sanctioned tournament of teams on 6th May at the Portsmouth Rugby Club grounds in Hilsea to explore this unifying approach of teams working together to win for their respective clubs. AWF need more under-18 member clubs to join this tournament — contact to get involved.

There will also be a visual exhibition of the whole project at Portsmouth Central Library in Guildhall Square during Black History Month of October 2018. The showcase will include a video of oral history, filmed performances, artwork, and objects produced throughout the programme.

Local indie filmhouse No. 6 Cinema, located in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, will be showing Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on 23rd June. The 2013 documentary film stars Idris Elba as the revolutionary leader, bringing to life a script based on Mandela’s 1995 book of the same name.

Big Screen Portsmouth are set to broadcast an abbreviated film in July/August demonstrating everything AWF go on to achieve through the 2018 programme.

Other local supporters of Mandela 100 include Fratton Big LocalPortsmouth PoetryPortsmouth FestivitiesTeam Locals Portsmouth, and No. 6 Cinema.

African Women’s Forum Portsmouth are now inviting interest from anyone wishing to be a part of the choir or rugby team. Email or call 07758 805 316 for more.

A donation drive is now open for the project, helping fund the events here in Portsmouth and contributing to the construction of a primary school in the remote Liberian village of Teekpeh. The latter honours Mandela’s unwavering belief that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Anyone wishing to offer support can do so via this Total Giving link.