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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born a Xhosa In Mvezo to the Thembu royal
family on 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013). He was a South
African anti-apartheid revolutionary,
politician and philanthropist who served as President of the Republic of South
Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country's first black head of state
and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. Following
his election, Mandela focused his government’s attention on dismantling the
legacy of apartheid by tackling
institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation.
Nelson Mandela was an African Nationalist and a socialist, serving as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.
Mandela studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the The University of Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg where he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics, joining the ANC in 1943 and co-founding its Youth League in 1944.
In 1948 the South African National Party’s White only government established apartheid—a system of racial segregation that gave all privilege to its minority white population at the expense of more than 20 million Blacks. Mandela and the ANC committed themselves to overthrowing this system. He was appointed President of the ANC's Transvaal branch, rising to prominence for his involvement in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the 1956 Treason Trial. Influenced by Marxism, he secretly joined the South African Communist Party (SACP). Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 and led a sabotage campaign against the government. In 1962, he was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the state and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.
Mandela would serve 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison.
Mandela led a broad coalition government which promulgated a new constitution, He emphasized reconciliation between the country's racial groups and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Economically, Mandela's administration retained its predecessor's liberal framework despite his own socialist beliefs, He introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and served as Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999. He declined a second presidential term and in 1999 was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman and focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the charitable Nelson Mandela Foundation.