The relationship between two great icons in the struggle for freedom and social justice is the inspiration for the Mandela Gandhi Wall at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg.
The wall, created by renowned artist and author Birad Rajaram Yajnik, is an interactive exhibition that focuses on the lives of and relationship between two heroes – Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi – as well as the relationship between India and South Africa.
The exhibition is interactive in a couple of ways that will enthral visitors of all ages, but most impressively, Yajnik has found a way to make the exhibition particularly interesting to the youth, who he recognises have a fondness for technology.
For those who are less technologically inclined, the interactive aspect of the wall has been designed to be both simple and easy to use while still stimulating and engaging.
Next to the wall is a stack of what look like postcards with questions on the back that relate to the lives and struggles of Gandhi and Mandela. The picture on the front of the postcard matches one of the photographs on the wall and the questions on the back are multiple-choice, with a list of possible answers.
Visitors can discover the correct answer by matching the photo on the card to the corresponding photo on the wall. The picture on the wall has a small letter in one corner, which corresponds to the correct answer on the back of the card.
The questions are designed to enrich the visitors’ experience of the wall and also to prompt engagement.
Yajnik showed some of the guests at the recent opening of the exhibition how the question cards work. ‘This is where the engagement starts,’ he said ‘because it will take some time to match this picture.’
But the ingenuity of the exhibition is in the way it works with and embraces technology.
Dotted about the wall are QR (quick-recognition) codes that can be read by smartphones, which then play videos or audio clips that Yajnik has loaded on to the internet.
The free wireless internet at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory means that you can experience these parts of the exhibition without using your own data or airtime.
One of the videos that the QR codes will direct you to is the first-ever recorded footage of Gandhi.
For Yajnik, the best part is that he can keep the exhibition fresh by changing the videos so that the same QR code might not always direct to the same video. Said Yajnik, ‘We can keep enhancing it more and more.’
He said that his ‘favourite part is how the youth can engage’, and he is passionate about being able to speak to the youth and share with them the stories of ‘two great icons of peace in the world’.
Yajnik hopes that by allowing the youth the opportunity to engage with and understand the stories of these icons, he can help inspire the next Gandhi or Mandela.
‘My message is for the youth,’ he said. ‘Most of my work is targeted at high school students.’
Yajnik is proud of this work. ‘It turned out very nicely,’ he said. ‘Simplicity works the best.’