Tuesday, 19 April 2022 19:37

Reality Check Walter Sisulu Accused #2 in the Rivonia Trial.

By Jacob Mawela.

Photo Credit: Fullview.

After an almost two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, the Nelson Mandela Foundation once again welcomed guests through its doors for the opening of a new virtual reality exhibition titled, "RealityCheck: Walter Sisulu - Accused #2";at its Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton, Johannesburg, on the evening of April 13, 2022.

Following the official launch earlier this year, the Archive at the Centre of Memory (ACoM) unveiled the exhibition based on the original audio recordings from The Rivonia Trial.  

Over 250 hours of audio recordings of the Rivonia Trial have been digitised and restored, and some of the content is now being presented in this exhibition, along with animated virtual reality. The Nelson Mandela Foundation believes that this is a celebration of the unique heritage that the digitised sound archives present to the South African public, who have previously not been able to access the recordings due to their obsolete audio format.

In attendance on the auspicious Autumnal evening were the late anti-apartheid activist’s children, Max, a former Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, and adopted daughter and South African Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic, Beryl Rose Sisulu – as well as daughter-in-law and Max' wife, Elinor Sisulu, the publisher of the Noma Award-winning biography, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime. 

The opening of the exhibition was accompanied by a conversation between the Foundation's Head of Leadership Development, Professor Verne Harris and Anthropology lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand, Dr Kholeka Shange, as they explored Prof Harris’ book, Ghosts of Archive, as well as Dr Shange's work on photographic archiving of Princess Magogo. The duo's discussion, which interrogated issues of archival practice, ghosts and justice, was facilitated by Kneo Mokgopa.

Razia Saleh, Director of Archive and Research at Nelson Mandela Foundation, explained that the new digital archive is one of the ways that the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is driving greater public access of the archives following its closure for almost two years due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. "Since the launch of ACoM earlier in the year, we are excited that the archival aspect of the Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation is coming alive and widening access" she said.

An innovative development entailed guests being invited to write and leave their personal notes of their experiences with the COVID pandemic and the state of the world. These will be stored next to Nelson Mandela’s archives and will be opened ten years from the date of the exhibition's opening, for reflective purposes.

Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, said that access to archives remains important to the protection and preservation of the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the other Rivonia Trialists. "Walter Sisulu was a lifelong friend, confidante, and mentor to Nelson Mandela. We invite the public to come and watch a 52-year-old Walter Sisulu when he was giving his original testimony at the Rivonia Trial", he said. 

ACoM aims to generate an integrated and dynamic information resource on the life and times of Nelson Mandela through a multi-layered archive portal with content drawn from the physical archive, research and analysis. It also aims to activate and bring the archive alive through an exciting and compelling cultural programme with talks, exhibitions and gatherings that explore the archive.