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Remembering the SS Mendi

20 February 2017 - 08 June 2017
Remembering the SS Mendi

On the 100th year anniversary of the tragic sinking of the SS Mendi, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum will open an exhibition of over 200 sketches culminating in an oil triptych produced by local Eastern Cape artist Hillary Graham. This remarkable work reimagines the tragic event in vast series of tableaus depicting the brave men of 5th Battalion the South African Native Labour Corps who died in this nautical disaster.

The Mendi installation was produced by Graham over a five year period from 1987 and was first exhibited in 1993 at the National Art’s Festival held in Grahamstown. The Art Museum loaned the exhibition in 1994 and purchased the work for the permanent collection in 1995. 

Remembering the tragic loss of life when the SS Mendi sank has become a rallying point in Post-Apartheid South African to recover the lost history of black soldiers and the role these men played in World War One. Of the many South Africans soldiers who perished on this night, the majority were black South Africans troops heading for the front lines of the First World War in supportive positions. Graham was initially inspired to investigate this tragic event through the research of historian Norman Clothier who helped bring attention to this event through his book Black Valor published in 1987. 

 This installation of paintings and drawings forms part of the Art Museum's Permanent Collection.

 The exhibition opening will be held on the 21 February 2017 and other public events have also been arranged, for more details, see under events.

Contact Details

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum

1 Park Drive, Port Elizabeth, 6001, South Africa
+27 (0)41 506 2000 / Fax: +27 (0)41 586 3234
Please address all correspondence to the Director.

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