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Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory : Peter Glendinning : Attached to the Soil


The Nelson Mandela Foundation Centre of Memory, the archive of President Mandela’s legacy in Johannesburg, exhibits the project Attached to the Soil by the American photographer and MSU Professor of Art, Peter Glendinning.

In his 1994 Inaugural Address, President Nelson Mandela shared the following metaphor expressing his aspirations for the new South Africa and its people, one that most viewed as hope for unity. “I have no hesitation in saying each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the Bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal.”

Attached to the Soil began in 2019, the 25th anniversary year of that statement, as a series of 50 three-part artworks, finalized by the artist Peter Glendinning during his 7 months of service as a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa.

Each work resulted from his collaborations with a South African youth who shared their aspirations for their country, their reflections on what they had inherited from past generations, in the form of a soil-related metaphor. A third collaborator was a person with a life experience related to the young person’s metaphor, whose story was the subject of a portrait both in words and photography. Each young person’s aspirations and each subject’s story, are true to themselves while also being representative of so many others like them.

As Prof. Adam Habib wrote in his insightful Foreward to the project, “It tells the stories of these individuals, capturing their hopes, fears, aspirations and disappointments. It speaks of a people who are distinguished by their diversity, emanating as they do from a variety of racial, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds. All have been marked by the tragic history of racialised exploitation in this land. But all demonstrate in their activities, ambitions and voice how this tragedy did not scar their souls….Peter Glendinning’s South African collaborators have bared their souls and thus provided hope in the midst of social gloom. We need more of such stories that tell of the aspirations of the people of our world, not mediated and articulated through the voice of political actors, but rather amplified directly in their own voices.”

The 50 works that will be on display at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, from March 16 through August 31, are the foundation for a new phase of expression, in which South African youth may add their own completed projects created without Glendinning’s participation, crafted with their mobile phone cameras, intelligence, and unique creativity. For more information see


Peter Glendinning : Attached to the Soil
from March 16 to August 31, 2023
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
107 Central Street
Houghton, 2198, South Africa

Artist Website:

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