Peace portraits

Trafalgar Square has special significance for South Africans and for Norwegians. Every Christmas the City of Oslo sends a Christmas Tree to the people of London as a symbol of peace and to thank them for giving refuge to their King and Government during World War II.

For South Africans, Trafalgar Square is a place of protest and celebration. For years anti-apartheid demonstrators stood vigil outside the High Commission (then an Embassy) demanding an end to the system; and when Nelson Mandela came triumphant to the City, it was on Trafalgar Square that many campaigners got their first glimpse of the free man.

This year, around the time when the Nobel Peace Prize is officially handed out at an award ceremony on 10 December, the Norwegian Embassy and the South African High Commission, in collaboration with the Oslo Peace Centre, have come together to host a special photographic exhibition – Strengths and Convictions – which charts the inspirational lives of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Laureates – Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F W De Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

The exhibition, organised by the Oslo Peace Centre, forms part of the City of Oslo’s gifts of peace to the City of London over the Christmas period.

It features photographs compiled by renowned South African photographer George Hallett, as well as seven short documentary films and a timeline of 100 years of South African history, providing insight into the circumstances that motivated the laureates to act for peace, democracy and change.

Being located in South Africa House, once the “citadel of Apartheid” as South African High Commissioner Zola Skweyiya described it, side by side with some of the remaining imagery and symbols of the apartheid regime, makes the exhibition all the more poignant. The High Commission, situated on Trafalgar Square in the shadow of the Norwegian Christmas Tree, adds to the message of the exhibition.

The free exhibition is located at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DP and runs from 3 Dec-2 January 2011. It is open to the public weekdays from 10.00-17.00; weekends 10.00-16.00. The exhibition will be closed on 16, 27 and 28 December.