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An Immersive Nelson Mandela Exhibition Is Coming To Chicago This Month

Elliot McGowan Elliot McGowan

An Immersive Nelson Mandela Exhibition Is Coming To Chicago This Month

The fight for freedom will be showcased through dramatic visuals, digital technology, and original artifacts.

An exhibition on one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures is set to open in Chicago later this month. The immersive exhibition titled Mandela: Struggle for Freedom will open at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center on February 20, 2021, featuring dramatic visuals, digital technology, and original artifacts.

According to Chief Curator, Arielle Weininger, in addition to paying homage to the legacy and unbreakable will of the eponymous human rights champion, the exhibition will explore themes such as “the role of nonviolent protest, the power of youth, and the indignities of incarceration that still resonate today.”

Image courtesy of Illinois Holocaust Museum

Among its many dramatic features and original artifacts, the immersive exhibition will have a replica of the eight-foot by seven-foot cell where the Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 18 years of his life. Here the exhibition has utilized the wonders of modern-day multimedia to create a unique and enlightening experience.

Stepping within, the enclosing walls will illuminate around you showing projections that evince the dehumanizing conditions of Robben Islands and depict Mandela’s daily routine during his confinement.

The projections will tell tales of repression, resilience, and also take a sneak peek at some censored letters that explain a little-known escape plan.

Image courtesy of Illinois Holocaust Museum

The exhibit is comprised of five different zones named: Apartheid, Defiance, Repression, Mobilization, and Freedom. These tell the story of the fight against apartheid using imagery, soundscape, digital media, and artifacts.

With each zone referencing a different color of the South African flag, visitors will start with the stark black-and-white of oppression and end in the full living colors of freedom.

In one room of the exhibition, you’ll find an enormous tank-like truck emerging from one wall moving towards you. Visitors who dare can grab a trash-can lid as their only protection and get a feel of what it was like to be a student during the Soweto uprising. “Schwe-schwe” fabrics and rhythmic toyi-toyi dancing make it a culturally-enriched experience as well as immersive and interactive.

Image courtesy of Illinois Holocaust Museum

In addition to the replicated cell and Soweto uprising room, an imposing “wall of laws” stretches five meters high covered in apartheid signs and laws that illustrate the draconian rules, segregation, and exploitation of apartheid.

There will also be a “covert” area of the gallery featuring hidden objects, peek holes, and coded phone messages so you can check your capacity for clandestine communications.

If it’s the relics and remnants of the past you’re interested in, Mandela: Struggle for Freedom will have a variety of iconic artifacts on show including some of Mandela’s own letters and possessions so you can see moments of history in the flesh.

Image courtesy of Illinois Holocaust Museum

The exhibition will run for more than half a year from February 20 through September 12 and will be open every day from 10 am until 5 pm. Head over to the Illinois Holocaust Museum website for more information.

[Featured image courtesy of Illinois Holocaust Museum]

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