A Prisoner in the Garden
Opening Nelson Mandela's Prison ArchiveBook - 2005
In 1977 the South African prison authorities allowed a number of journalists to visit Robben Island. On their tour, the journalists encountered a tall, then man dressed neatly in prison clothes and leaning on a spade. The expression on his face was intensely hostile and his hearing was more that of prince than prisoner.
The man Nelson Mandela, in his 13th year of incarceration on Robben Island.
Today the photograph, captioned ' A Prisoner Working in the Garden ' by the prison authorities, forms the centrepiece of the Mandela Prison Archive which, when viewed as a whole, constitutes a living record of Mandel's more than 27 years in prison. It includes rare photographs and video footage, Mandela's handwritten letters to family, friends and the authorities, his personal diaries and notes, official records, medical records and legal documents. Together they form an extraordinary picture of prison life but, even more remarkably, of a man who, together with his close comrades, never gave up the fight for freedom and the vision of a liberated country.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded by Nelson Mandela and dedicated to promoting its founder's legacy. The Foundation, through its Centre of Memory, develops and integrated information resource on the life and times of Nelson Mandela and convenes dialogues on critical social issues.
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory was launched by Mr Mandela in 2004. Its vision is of a society which remembers its past, listens to all of its voices, and pursues social justice. A Prisoner Working in the Garden was the first of a series of publications dedicated to enriching social memory through the opening and dissemination of unique archival materials.
'Anyone who has explored the world of archives will know that it is a treasure house, one that is full of surprises, crossing paths, dead ends, painful reminders and unanswered questions . . . The experience of looking at my prison archive has been a personal one for me. Readers are invited to share in it.' Nelson Mandela