Inspiring a Nation: Mandela Trilogy

Jonathon Poyner

07 Sep 2016


As I sat for the opening performance of the Mandela Trilogy earlier this week, the powerful messages of the script really hit home.  Those messages taken from the journey of South Africa’s many decades of strife are more than poignant today and may be of comfort to those embarking on their own journey to a positive future.  The story told will not only entertain audiences across the world, but will be inspiration to those charged with the responsibilities of building a better nation and prosperous opportunities for generations to come. 

The media is currently flooded with stories of conflict and if we look at countries such as Columbia who are embarking on their own journey of unity, we can see how sharing stories of hope through music, art and performance can inspire and support nations to achieve their mission through a focus on peace and reconciliation. 

South Africa has been on a similar journey as the long suffering people of Columbia, culminating with the initiation of its own resolution process some 27 years ago.  That stage had been reached after many generations of turbulence and gives hope to those seeking a promising horizon. 

As we embark on the tour of our co-production with Cape Town Opera we reflect on our long-standing association with South Africa and how strong, trusted relationships bring a wealth of opportunity.  This collaboration originated as a result of the friendship between two of our original visionaries - Lord Rowe-Beddoe and Sir Donald Gordon. They saw the importance of working together at a time when a changing Wales had just opened its own Assembly building, and South Africa had all too recently started its own courageous journey of peace and reconciliation.  We hope the tour of this emotive piece will promote that through working together, visionaries can deliver a better future - a future that is inclusive and peaceful.

The messages, communicated via scenes during the Mandela performances, are both powerful and encouraging.  During one particularly dramatic scene, “Madiba” proclaims to the expectant crowd that 'no government can govern unless it represents all of the people'.   In a later scene, before Madiba is released from 27 years in prison, he is debating with his friend, his prison guard, and they sing together that 'we have much work to do – together'!  This message could be not only encouragement for the people of Columbia, but for all of us who encounter disagreement in our lives; there is much work to do and we must work together to achieve lasting success.

Working 'together' is best conducted in a climate of 'peace and reconciliation', and that process must include 'all of the people' if it is to be successful for the long term.

For a production such as this to inspire a nation and change lives, people must work together.  In business, this need has been described by Lencioni in his book 'The Five Dysfunctions of a Team'.  The climate of peace and reconciliation hinges around creating the right atmosphere.  An atmosphere of trust.  In the corporate world this is based on an assumption of positive intent. Once there is trust, challenging yet constructive conversations can take place and agreements can be reached – together – demonstrating mutual respect for each other’s ambition.

Peace and reconciliation, working together, and the value of culture in nation building all from a musical, The Mandela Trilogy; quite a night to remember. Encore!

Jonathon Poyner: Strategic Director, Wales Millennium Centre

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