Desmond Tutu honoured in state-of-the-art exhibition in Cape Town

Date:22 March 2022 Tags:,

South Africa and the world lost an icon on 26 December 2021 – the late Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu.

In honour of the ‘greatest Capetonian’s legacy,’ the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation will open an exciting and thought-provoking permanent exhibition entitled Truth To Power: Desmond Tutu and the Churches in the Struggle Against Apartheid. It will welcome the public for self-guided tours from 25 March.

Curated in partnership with the Apartheid Museum, and a part of the Foundation’s Knowledge Legacy Programme, this state-of-the-art exhibition celebrates the life and legacy of The Arch, housed at the historic Old Granary Building, the home of the Foundation and the Tutu IP Trust. Beyond its mission of ensuring the uncompromised bravery and values of its founders are celebrated and curated for posterity, it also serves as a welcomed addition to the popular cultural heritage precinct in Cape Town.

Despite the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate’s profound impact on South Africa and the world, there has been no single permanent exhibit solely dedicated to Archbishop Tutu. The exhibition begins to acknowledge his massive contribution and serve as a basis for addressing the distinct deficit in school and university curricula of material about the multi-faceted life and legacy of this global icon.

More importantly, the exhibition aims to be more than just an ode to the Arch. It will be a place where people, young and old, are challenged and inspired to take up the baton of courageous and ethical leadership and emulate the unwavering values that the Archbishop demonstrated throughout his life.

“We need to have the courage to speak out against injustice, just as the Arch did. In South Africa, we are seeing deeply troubling trends, such as the resurgence of xenophobia, attacks on whistle-blowers, as well as a relentless assault on our democracy due to rampant corruption. We are also living in unprecedented times where a pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to plague our global landscape,” said Foundation chairperson, Niclas Kjellström-Matseke.

“Our young democracy has not had the chance to fully heal. Healing is not an act of turning a blind eye to the issues, but acknowledging and confronting them in a constructive and peaceful manner. Healing requires introspection, it requires us to learn from the past so that we do not end up making the same mistakes. Learning is part of healing and that is part of what this exhibition hopes to do,” he added.

Just three months after his sad passing, the exhibition will remind us of Tutu’s courage to speak out against injustice, his bold activism and his attempt to bring healing and reconciliation to a divided society. It brings together well-researched text, powerful photographs, film footage, as well as documents and other artefacts related to significant moments in his life.

A legacy mapped in six themes:

Apartheid Education: The Most Evil Act of All – How the apartheid-era policy of Bantu Education changed Tutu’s life and South Africa’s history

The Struggle in the Church: Fighting a False Gospel – The church as a site of struggle between those who supported colonialism and racial oppression and those who fought against it

Faith in Action: The Campaign for Sanctions – How apartheid’s policy of forcibly removing people of colour from areas designated for white settlement sparked international sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid state

Protest and Peace-Making: In the Streets and Stadiums – How Tutu took every opportunity to preach defiance of apartheid in all its manifestations, to advocate for justice and to plead for peace

Unfinished Business: Tutu, Truth and Reconciliation – The achievements of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission as well as its unfinished business

TU+TU = Freedom – Speaking truth for global justice – how Tutu did not stop his activism when South Africa gained democracy, choosing to continue to be an activist for justice across the world

There is also a special room celebrating the special relationship between the Arch and his beloved wife and anchor, Leah Nomalizo Tutu, and another dedicated to his relationship with President Nelson Mandela.

“The Foundation has done a great job in drawing on the founders’ rich archive to represent the Arch’s important contribution in a sensitive and responsible manner. We look forward to more such initiatives in the years to come to make sure that the Arch’s legacy lives on”, commented Dr Mamphela Ramphele, chairperson of the Tutu IP Trust.

Old Granary, a significant home for the exhibition

The significance of the exhibition being located at the Old Granary shouldn’t be missed. The historic building mirrors South Africa’s complex history and holds a painful narrative of injustice, slavery and suffering under the hands of colonizers. The building had multiple uses – it was once a women’s prison where it was described by one of the women held captive there as a “den of infamy”.

In a foreword for a book on the Old Granary’s history, Archbishop Tutu wrote: “But it was only on hearing about the Old Granary’s rich and chequered past, that I realised that this too was a home with many rooms…. We want to use this building, so rich with South Africa’s history of strife and division, to make visible the compassion and dignity needed by our country – and all people of the world – to make global peace a daily reality.”

Through its work, the Foundation intends to turn it into a beacon of hope by creating a place of learning and healing.

Archbishop Tutu was under no illusion about how difficult the process of healing would be.

In his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, he wrote: “forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the degradation, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end, it is worthwhile because in the end dealing with the real situation helps to bring real healing. Spurious reconciliation can bring only spurious healing.”

Picture: Supplied

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