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Truth to Power exhibition set to honour life and times of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Jonathan Shapiro and Thierry Cassuto created the puppets of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president Nelson Mandela, that currently form part of the exhibition. – Picture: TRACEY ADAMS/African News Agency (ANA)

Jonathan Shapiro and Thierry Cassuto created the puppets of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president Nelson Mandela, that currently form part of the exhibition. – Picture: TRACEY ADAMS/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 20, 2022


COMMEMORATING the life of an icon is no small feat but thanks to the Desmond & Leah Tutu Foundation, a permanent exhibition honouring Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be launched this week.

In a collaboration with the Apartheid Museum, the foundation presents a thought-provoking exhibition titled, ‘Truth To Power: Desmond Tutu and the churches in the struggle against apartheid’.

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Housed at the Old Granary building in Buitenkant street, the exhibition was the first of its kind, solely dedicated to Tutu, acknowledging his multifaceted life; his contributions in servitude and legacy.

The opening comes three months after the Struggle stalwart’s death. The exhibition serves as a reminder of his courage to speak out against injustice, his bold activism, and his attempt to bring healing and reconciliation to a divided society.

Truth to Power includes various memorabilia of Tutu and his life and is presented in the form of text, photographs, film footage, documents and artefacts related to significant moments in his life.

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The exhibition aims to map his legacy through six themes: apartheid education; the struggle in the church; faith in action; protest and peace-making; unfinished business and tu+tu= freedom.

“As much as the world has an instinct for evil, injustice, oppression, racism, genocide, war and slavery, the world has an even greater instinct for goodness, freedom, truth, rebirth, mercy, beauty and love,” is the quote by the Archbishop that forms the premise of the exhibition.

Photojournalist Rashid Lombard’s work forms part of the exhibition where Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s relationship is reflected through imagery, puppets and letters shared between the pair.

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A picture captured by Rashid Lombard the day after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. It was taken outside Tutu’s home in Bishopscourt. From left to right: Albertina Sisulu, Walter Sisulu, Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Picture: Rashid Lombard

Lombard said it was a privilege to have his work be part of the exhibition in honour of the Archbishop.

“This is very personal because we have worked together since the 80s and we travelled together quite often,” he said.

Thierry Cassuto and Jonathan Shapiro with the puppets of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Picture: SUPPLIED

Another installation at the exhibition is the puppets of Tutu and Mandela created by cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro)and producer Thierry Cassuto. The puppets were used in the satirical ZA News puppet show.

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Shapiro said he was thrilled the puppets and his cartoons were part of the exhibition.

“I was lucky enough to have a connection with these icons and heroes of our Struggle and democracy,” he said.

Shapiro said he has always admired the Archbishop’s ability to speak fearlessly even in times of danger and great political risk.

“He consistently spoke up about injustices and his consistency was something I valued so much. He had an incredibly accurate and strong moral compass,” he said.

Lombard said he would always hold dear to him the memories he shared with Tutu. “His whole life until his passing; he never gave up fighting for human rights and against injustices. He was a very funny person, always cracking jokes,” he said.

He added: “There was never a dull moment with him. He could always break into humour amid everything happening around us. Even if we just escaped bullets and teargas, the minute he sat down, the humour was always there.”

Shapiro echoed the sentiments about Tutu’s sense of humour.

“He had a warm and kind sense of humour, and he was very funny. We tried to pick up on that in the puppets,” he said.

He added: “He was such a generous spirit. The first time I saw him at the City Hall in 1985, he spoke about us being the rainbow people of God and that still inspires me today.”

COO of the foundation, Phumi Nhlapo, said it was an honour to launch this exhibition.

“The Arch was aware of the work we were doing for the exhibition and he was able to visit us just before his 90th birthday, walking through the main exhibition,” she said.

She added: “It was an emotional experience for him and his wife. He was very grateful for the work we did.”

Nhlapo said the exhibition aims to ensure that Tutu’s legacy lives on forever. “There is a lot to learn from the Arch in terms of his courageous leadership, the values he held and how outspoken he was,” she said.

She added: “When he saw wrong being done, he was not fearful in saying so and we want to encourage young people to emulate that leadership style and have strong values as he did.”

“The extent of his contribution to this country and the world holds a lot of rich history. It is also guidance as to how we can deal with current challenges.”

The foundation’s message is to show people that they all have the power to change the world, Nhlapo said.

“The Arch is an example of someone who learned strong values and had the courage of his convictions to go out there. Each one of us can change the world for the better,” she said.

Curator of the Truth to Power exhibition, Emilia Potenza, said the exhibition was a timely examination of Tutu’s life and contribution to freedom and democracy in South Africa.

“It focuses not only on Desmond Tutu but also on the significant role planned by the progressive churches in the Struggle against apartheid. It does this by examining key turning points in 20th century South Africa,” she said.

Potenza said that the key message in the final film of the exhibition was that the tidal wave of change was made up of a million ripples.

The Truth to Power exhibition opens on March 25.

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