In April 1994, the world watched as millions of South Africans — most of them jubilant, but many wary — cast their ballots in that nation's first multiracial election. The outcome: Nelson Mandela became president of a new South Africa.
Mandela's journey from freedom fighter to president capped a dramatic half-century-long struggle against white rule and the institution of apartheid. This five-part series, originally produced in 2004, marked the 10th anniversary of South Africa's first free election.
Produced for NPR by Joe Richman of Radio Diaries and Sue Johnson, Mandela: An Audio History tells the story of the struggle against apartheid through rare sound recordings of Mandela himself, as well as those who fought with and against him.
The Birth Of Apartheid (1944-1960)
In the 1940s, Nelson Mandela was one of thousands of blacks who flocked to Johannesburg in search of work. At that time, a new political party came into power promoting a new idea: the separation of whites and blacks. Apartheid was born and along with it, a half-century-long struggle to achieve democracy in South Africa.
The Underground Movement (1960-1964)
In 1960, with the African National Congress banned, resistance to apartheid went underground. Faced with an intensified government crackdown, Mandela launched Umkhonto we Sizwe, or MK — a military wing of the ANC — and the armed struggle began. Two years later, Mandela was arrested for and convicted of high treason. He and eight others were sentenced to life in prison.
Robben Island (1964-1976)
As Mandela and other political leaders languished in prison, the government crackdown appeared to have crushed the resistance movement. But on June 16, 1976, a student uprising in Soweto sparked a new generation of activism.
State Of Emergency (1976-1990)
Guerrilla soldiers on the border, unrest in the townships, striking workers and a wave of international attention were making South Africa's system of apartheid untenable. Something had to give — and it did on Feb. 2, 1990, when South African President F.W. de Klerk announced he would lift a 30-year ban on the ANC and free Mandela after 27 years in prison.
On April 27, 1994, Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president. But that triumph didn't come easily. The four years between Mandela's release and the transition to democracy were some of the most volatile and painful in the country's history.
Stephen Sondheim has written quite a few classic musicals — Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods — but he's had just one hit song, "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music. And as he tells an audience in Six by Sondheim, it was a tricky one to write because the star who had to sing it, Glynis Johns, wasn't a singer with a capital "s".
"She had a lovely, sweet, bell-like voice, which was breathy and short-winded," Sondheim says. "So it's written in short phrases ... it's not hard to sing."
Countless backstage stories, culled mostly from interviews and archival footage, are assembled in Six by Sondheim into the story of a life — and a life's work. You'll hear what the grand master of the American musical learned from his mentor Oscar Hammerstein, and what he learned on the job with West Side Story, where his first professional lyrics were seriously overshadowed by Leonard Bernstein's music — at least in the eyes of critics.
Live and learn. And learn you will watching Six by Sondheim — a biographical sketch as master class. It's running in select cities this weekend, and on HBO Monday night.
Tim's Vermeer also centers on a single artist, except he's not an artist. He's an inventor. As a pioneer of desktop video software, Tim Jenison knows visuals, but he'd never so much as held a paintbrush when he decided to try to paint the way the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer did in some of the most exquisite oil paintings ever.
Jenison had read that the Renaissance masters probably used, in their work, some of the tools that would eventually lead, centuries later, to photography — lenses and mirrors. And that intrigued him.
Jenison tries the technique, using an old black-and-white photo as source material. As he dabs grey paint on masonite, blobs slowly become cheeks, and finally the camera pulls back and you see what he's painted. I've watched the film three times now, and all three times the audience has gasped. It is the black and white photo, in oil. Astonishing. And that's just the start.
Director Teller, best known as the silent half of the magic team Penn and Teller, whisks you through all kinds of complicated concepts, but his narrative is crystal clear as Jenison proceeds from this first test to building a copy of Vermeer's studio in a Texas warehouse. There, he'll reconstruct the room Vermeer painted in The Music Lesson — harpsichord, chair, stained glass windows. The process of putting those three-dimensional objects on canvas in natural light is so fascinating that no one's going to make jokes about watching paint dry — though at one point the film is literally about watching paint dry. And then applying varnish.
As with Six by Sondheim, Tim's Vermeer works at capturing on film how artists work their miracles. And it will have you, long after the credits fade, puzzling out questions of invention, creativity, science, talent, painstaking craft, and the magic that comes of putting all that together. (Recommended)
Many social media were dominated Thursday with remembrances of Nelson Mandela and statements about his life and legacy. Here are a few selections from our staff and our audience.
What impact did Mandela have on your life? You can tell us below.