Celebrating Mandela in the Archives

17 Jul 2019
17 Jul 2019

Story Michal Singer, Special Collections   Photos Theresa Schoeman

UCT Libraries has an incredibly diverse and multi-lingual collection on Nelson Mandela in its holdings. This includes a range of both South African and international publications, films and manuscripts.

This year, Mandela Day falls on the same week as National Archives Awareness Week, so we have used the opportunity to highlight some of these papers. This includes the photographs, Graduation book and speech made by Nelson Mandela when he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by UCT in November 1990, on display in the Main Library foyer.



The items on display are sourced from Libraries, Special Collections holdings, including the Rare Books African Children’s Literature Collection, the African Studies Collection of books and films, and the Primary Collections holdings of unpublished papers and audio-visual content. Some of these are on display in the Main Library, Research Wing and the Jagger Library.


The papers of Professor HW van der Merwe are on display in the Reading Room of the Jagger Library. Professor van der Merwe was the Head of the Centre for Intergroup Studies at the University of Cape Town and a pioneer of conflict resolution in South Africa. He and his wife Marietjie forged a supportive friendship with both Nelson and Winnie Mandela in the 1980s and were allowed to visit them. The papers on display include letters to and from Winnie Mandela, as well as the reports by HW van der Merwe documenting his first visit to Mandela in Robben Island Prison in 1984 and a later visit to Victor Verster Prison in 1989.

In 2018, UCT celebrated Madiba’s centenary with a website Celebrating Mandela in UCT Libraries. Visit to learn more about UCT Libraries’ holdings on Mandela’s life and work.