Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition review: a shrine to the memory of a secular saint

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition at London's 26 Leake Street Gallery
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition at London's 26 Leake Street Gallery

The name Nelson Mandela has a special ring to it. Gravedigger of apartheid, lifelong anti-racist campaigner; it’s often said that he’s the closest thing in the post-Cold War era to a secular saint. And Mandela: The Official Exhibition, based at a new gallery underneath railway arches in Waterloo, London does nothing to challenge that view.

Billing itself as a “journey through the life” of the South African leader, it’s more like a religious event. The nigh-150 artefacts are what the Catholic Church would term “second-class relics”: things that a saint has owned or touched. (Even the gallery itself seems fittingly like a crypt.)

That’s not to say that it doesn’t tell Mandela’s story diligently....

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