Nelson Mandela Festival


1st Democratically-Elected President of South Africa

The WERKSTATT DER KULTUREN held the 1st Nelson Mandela Festival from July 18 - 20, 2008 in honor of the anti-apartheid revolutionary's 90th birthday.

The weekend-long celebration commemorated the achievements of the first democratically-elected President of South Africa with concerts, public discussions, readings and film screenings.

The festival was held at the outdoor cinema Freiluftkino Hasenheide. The former amphitheater is situated in the Hasenheide recreational park in Berlin-Neukölln, a district in which a large percentage of the population is African.

Event Partners
The Embassy of the Republic of South Africa
Freiluftkino Hasenheide

Media Partners
RBB and radiomultikulti
the newspaper die taz (die tageszeitung)

the Auswärtiges Amt (Federal Foreign Office)
Amadeu Antonio Stiftung
Agentur Allsports
Hamburger Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Demokratie und des Völkerrechts
South African Airways
South African Tourism

Honorary Guest
We were honored to welcome honorary guest Denis Goldberg. Mandela's companion, who during the famous Rivonia Trial alongside Mandela was sentenced to four life-imprisonment terms, spoke at the festival's opening ceremony and gave a moving speech the following day about his life during the resistance against the Apartheid regime and his experiences during his 22 years of incarceration as a member of the ANC.

Opening Ceremony
The opening of the festival officially took place on July 18, 2008 at 8:30 PM after a small VIP reception. Roughly 600 visitors participated. The opening speeches were held by Philippa Ebéné, Executive and Artistic Director of the WERKSTATT DER KULTUREN, Peter Krämer, Chairperson of the Hamburger Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Demokratie und Menschenrechte, Dr. Heidi Knake-Werner, Senator within the Senatsverwaltung für Integration, Arbeit und Soziales, Eddie Funde, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa and honorary guest Denis Goldberg. The opening was hosted by Kofi Yakpo, research assistant for the German Bundestag.

The festival highlighted a wide variety of African culture - especially South African culture - which included music, film, spoken word, informational stands and cuisine.

Musical Line-Up
Traditional musicians, as well as pop and Jazz musicians from South Africa, other African countries and from the Diaspora came together to make music in honor of one of the greatest living African icons. The participating artists included the award-winning South African band Freshlyground, the internationally-known Jazz singer Simphiwe Dana, the Senegalese Band Griot Music Company led by Abdourahmane Diop, the avant-garde trio 3 Kings led by Jean-Paul Bourelly, the Malian kora virtuoso Fily Sako, the singer Natasha Roth from Cape Town and radiomultikulti's house band Los Multikultis.

Film Program
Every evening at 10 PM at the Freiluftkino Hasenheide, films were screened. The program included the films 'Drum', 'Amandla!' and the Oscar-nominated documentary 'Nelson Mandela - Son of Afrika, Father of a Nation'.

Spoken Word
The African-Berliner actors ensemble 'abok' performed African love poems, students from the Nelson Mandela School read letters aloud to Mr. Mandela, and Denis Goldberg held a very moving one-hour presentation which was followed by an animated discussion.

Informational Stands
Informational stands were set up in the entrance area of the Freiluftkino Hasenheide, where one could learn about African happenings in Berlin, African artisan craftwork and African cuisine.

Public Reception
A press conference was held before the festival began, and various print and media were informed of the event. Informational flyers and posters were distributed throughout the city. The WERKSTATT DER KULTUREN was expecting to receive between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors; nearly 7,000 turned up over the 2 1/2 days of the festival. The atmosphere was of an easygoing and joyful nature, underlined by a celebratory spirit, which certainly had to do with the extra-ordinary event location.


The event was a great success! The concept of a culturally and politically-challenging, interdisciplinary open air event free of cost premiered to great acclaim. The celebration, honoring of one of the most internationally-respected and influential politicians of our time, attracted a wide variety of people: young and old, wealthy and less-wealthy Berliners representing all cultural, social and ethnic milieus of the city came together to celebrate and laud a great man and role model.

The festival celebrated Mandela and his great achievements for cultural diversity, which can be felt across the world to this day, especially in the transcultural city that is Berlin. On the last evening of the Nelson Mandela Festival, the enthusiastic audience called with their resounding applause for a continuation of the festival.