Mandela's legacy published in comic-book series

One of the world’s most popular men, Nelson Mandela, has been immortalised in a comic-book series covering his life.

“You know you are really famous the day you have become a comic character,” the former South African president said in Johannesburg on Friday.

The first instalment of the nine-part series, which traces Madiba’s life from birth to when he arrived in Johannesburg, was released to the press and guests.

Mandela said the comics are aimed at youngsters and it is hoped the series will lead them to reading “good books”.

He said if the comic, which he described as easy to read for people with “eyes not like they used to be” such as himself, reaches new readers, the project will be worthwhile.

The first book concentrates on three themes—tradition, community and history—that Mandela said all played an important role in shaping his early life.

He then went on to tell a story of how when he first went to prison, gender rights and non-sexism were “barely known”. However, when he came out of prison 27 years later, he was known as a champion of women’s rights.

A friend asked him how he had “caught up so fast”.

Madiba said that while he was in prison, he read widely and discovered literature that forced him to open his mind. He thought much about the women from where he had been brought up, and the important roles they had played.

“All of us have the potential to be experts in telling ...
and reading stories. I hope the comic will today launch [this],” he said to loud applause.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive John Samuel said the comics—‘The Madiba Legacy Series’—are part of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Commemoration Project.

The project, which was launched by Mandela last year, aims to tell stories of Mandela’s walk to freedom.

“Madiba’s memory needs to be shared as widely as possible ... [he is] one of the greatest gifts to the world,” he said.

The book, with a print run of a million copies, will be distributed to schools and through newspapers.

He said it will eventually be printed in all the country’s 11 official languages.

Samuel, who said he grew up on an extensive diet of comic reading, told guests many people find comic reading less daunting than books, and their blend of image and text make them a powerful medium.

Lazarus Zim, the chief executive of Anglo America South Africa, which is sponsoring the first and last books, said his company is delighted to be part of a project that places Mandela’s story “out there”.

“This is our thank you to Madiba for his inspirational leadership ... and sacrifices he has made.”

The comic was distributed to Eastbank High School in Alexandra earlier this week.

Rhoda Baholo, a 17-year-old pupil at the school, said at the launch that she enjoyed the comic.

“I liked it very much. I will tell my friends to read it because Nelson Mandela fought for our freedom.”—Sapa

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