Mandela archives go live, but not everyone’s happy

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive went live on the internet on Tuesday, transforming the iconic former statesman’s life into a free-to-access online narrative.

Powered by Google and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the archive contains documents, videos and various other multimedia detailing the former president’s life from the early years in his native Eastern Cape until his present day retirement.

“Nelson Mandela said he didn’t want this to become a mausoleum — those were Madiba’s words. This is an attempt to illustrate his life and assist people accessing his story,” Achmat Dangor, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation told attendees, which included government ministers and struggle heroes.

The general mood among guests was jovial as they celebrated the life and times of arguably South Africa’s most famous citizen.

But the feeling of cheer was not uniform as some felt the archive overplayed Mandela’s role in the liberation of South Africa.

Author Beata Lipman, one of the honoured guests on the day, said the archive attempts to turn Mandela into “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

“We all know what Mandela did for the struggle, but it’s not as if he acted alone. There were many others like Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo who gave their lives for South Africa but are not honoured in the same way,” Lipman told the Mail & Guardian.

Important stories
The initiative was made possible through a $1.25-million (R8.6-million) grant from Google.

“Our job is to take important stories to the people of the world, and in the stories of the 20th century none is more inspiring than Madiba’s. This will be a continually growing archive that takes the life of Mandela to the world,” said Steve Crossan, head of the Google Cultural Institute.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor hailed the archive as a chance for South Africans to learn from Mandela.

“Our country and globe is in desperate need of role models that espouse the values and morals Mandela exhibited, we have to take advantage of the digital world to enhance our education in South Africa,” she said.

The archives are date coded, which allows for easy navigation from one event in Madiba’s life to another.

This would mean smoothly moving from his hand written inauguration speech in 1994, to a desk calendar entry detailing a meeting with FW de Klerk in the late 1980s.

Protection
Archive content has also been transcribed by Google, allowing the ability to search for text specific documents.

The project is now in its pilot stage, and will determine the future mode under which the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive operates.

Crossan said Google would offer “some protection” to the archive content to prevent it from being used by third parties for commercial gain.

“It is important to do a pilot project to find out if the value of the experience is worth putting out Mandela archives’,” he said.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world