“A Light So Powerful” Unveiled at Reception Celebrating Art & Legacy of Nelson Mandela

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“A Light So Powerful” Unveiled at Reception Celebrating Art & Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Mandela's Freedom
The African American Dance Ensemble & Collage Dance Company depict the triumph of Nelson Mandela as he is released from prison.

In a moving display of the synergy between dance and art, American Tobacco unveiled its new installment of the artwork of legendary South African leader Nelson Mandela.   At a VIP reception on Thursday, January 24, 2008, about one year after the opening of the first series of Mandela prints, guests were awed by the power of simple drawings washed in color.

“Nelson Mandela:  A Light So Powerful” brings the struggle of South Africa against apartheid and for freedom and equality to life with five of Mandela’s limited edition lithographs.  Depictions of scenes from Robben Island, the pieces are displayed in “wire walls,” depicting both his incarceration and his triumph.  The exhibit also includes five 1994 election posters, a miner’s helmet painted in protest and a historic photo capturing Mandela casting his own vote in April 1994. 

The dancers show the celebratory spirit that exploded throughout the world when Mandela was freed.

See More of the Reception & Performance

slidesView the SLIDESHOW

Capitol Broadcasting Company, American Tobacco, FOX 50 and GlaxoSmithKline joined forces to bring these works to the citizens of the Triangle.

The 7:00pm reception in American Tobacco’s Bay 7 delighted guests with a unique buffet from Symposium while actors silently depicted Nelson Mandela and an Ancestral Spirit in Mandela’s cell on Robben Island.  Then a slate of speakers shared their knowledge and experiences of Nelson Mandela and South Africa.

“Seeing that man of courage was one of the most thrilling…moving…of my life, before last year,” said GSK’s Lynn Henderson.  She reminisced about the 2007 Mandela exhibit unveiling at American Tobacco saying that, “the audiences’ collective gasp of awe was unlike any other.  It was a truly extraordinary moment.”

Dr. Karin Shapiro of Duke University drew a picture in words, giving attendees a historical backdrop of the times when Mandela was released from prison and South Africans got to participate in their first democratic election in 1994.

Shapiro said that 20 million people voted in that election, well over 90% of those eligible.  The figures understate the diversity brought about, and the diversity of voters was nothing less than astonishing, she said.

“South Africa came to the election with a sense of relief and gratitude,” said Shapiro.

“Thank you for helping me get my freedom.”
– South African voter to peace monitor Dollie Burwell

Dollie BurwellDollie Burwell (left) helped monitor the voting in South Africa during the historic 1994 elections.  She told the story of one man who came sliding into the polling place, unable to walk.  When he took his ballet to the booth, he laid it on the floor.  She immediately recognized his plight and ran to tape flipbook paper around the bottom of the booth.  He filled out his ballot in secret and when he emerged told her, “Thank you for helping me get my freedom.”

American Tobacco found its own surprise connection to Mandela through American Tobacco Administrative Asst Kimberly Burwell.  Her mother, Dollie Burwell, was the lone North Carolinian chosen to go to South Africa as observer from the National Council of Churches to monitor the elections. 

“Words cannot express that awesome experience,” Dollie Burwell said as she described her work as a peace monitor.  She went to South Africa with a contingent of 360 people, only 20 of which were from the U.S.  She was assigned to the region of Natal and actually loaned some of the election posters she collected after the vote to the American Tobacco exhibit.

The evening climaxed with an inspired performance by members of the African American Dance Ensemble and the Collage Dance Company.  “A Light So Powerful” drew a moving picture of Mandela’s struggle in prison, his release, and the jubilation of the South African people as they elected him leader.

“The four corners of the world became the four corners of his cell,” read the narrator.  “These are not his crossroads, this is just his Promised Land intersection.”

Nelson Mandela performance
“I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.”
– Nelson Mandela quoted in the “A Light So Powerful” performance

“Nelson Mandela:  A Light So Powerful” will be on display in the Strickland Building lobby on the American Tobacco campus in downtown Raleigh from January 25 to April 30th.  The lobby is open from 9:00am – 6:00pm every day of the week.  Groups of 25 of more must register online.

“I’m blown away,” said CBC VP of Community Relations & American Tobacco GM Pope after the spoken presentations and the dance performance, “and I’m so delighted you could be here to share it with me.”

The audience’s standing ovation and the embraces African American Dance Ensemble Director Chuck Davis led the crowd to give one another proved that all in attendance were touched and changed as well.

Dancers from the Collage Dance Company depict the Isicathulo style of dance created in the mines of South Africa to demonstrate the fight against apartheid.
Musicians provide a backdrop of traditional African music during the reception.
Holding hands
Audience members hold hands and later embrace as African American Dance Ensemble director Chuck Davis leads them in an exercise of unity.

Stay Tuned
Nelson Mandela:  A Light So PowerfulCapcom will unveil photos and more details of the actual “Nelson Mandela:  A Light So Powerful” art and history exhibit on Tuesday, January 29th.  The reception for the exhibit opening was so powerful, we wanted to honor it by extensive coverage in this story and slideshow.  The art itself deserves special attention, so we will honor it with a separate story and slideshow tomorrow.

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POSTED: January 28, 2008

“Nelson Mandela: A Light So Powerful” Opening Reception

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