Welcome to the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project. Our aim is to locate, document, digitise, and provide access to all archival materials related to Nelson Mandela. This is a work in progress. Here is a selection of materials arranged in exhibits for your enjoyment.
As journalists, we were regularly summoned to Mr Mandela’s official residence to photograph Mr Mandela meeting important visitors. There was a standard protocol: We would stand and wait on the lawn below the verandah, and eventually Mr Mandela would emerge with his guest, his smile and warm greetings.
I remember this particular moment very well. There were a few of us who had gathered and were waiting to record the official moment that morning. We were standing around chatting, when all of a sudden we caught sight of Mr Mandela emerging through a side-door, with bodyguards in tow, and heading down the road. We ran to catch up, as Mr Mandela walked all the way down the lane, through the security gate and across the road to chat to some neighbours. I remember he was wearing slippers; he wasn’t wearing shoes.
He greeted everyone in sight, and his bodyguards allowed us journalists to do our thing; even pose for our own photographs with Madiba.
I always felt that Mr Mandela was anti-protocol. Although there were bodyguards buzzing around, and we’d all be briefed about his exact movements – and where we should be located – he never seemed to stick to the proposed plans. He always found it important to greet all round, and went out of his way to make everyone feel important, often at his own expense.
I remember, for example, when Princess Di visited. The media had spent virtually an entire day running up and down trying to catch a glimpse of the Princess. Finally, we received a call to say she would be visiting Madiba. As they emerged onto the verandah, and a sea of microphones, Mr Mandela told the Princess he had not seen any microphones since the day of his release, and it was clear that the media were more interested in her than in him. Typical!
Another special moment took place in Australia just before the 2000 Olympics. He was attending an incredibly noisy event, with lots of children and journalists. He arrived on a golf cart, but got out to walk the final few yards. As he walked past the media, I called out, ‘Hey, Madiba!’ He seemed startled to hear his clan name. He looked up, and I waved so he could see who was greeting him. I’m sure he would have recognised me, though not known exactly who I was, but he greeted me as if I was a long-lost friend.
Quote: "All of a sudden we caught sight of Mr. Mandela emerging through a side-door, with bodyguards in tow, and heading down the road."