The representation of Nelson Mandela in selected grade 12 history textbooks.
Van Niekerk, Adrian Lionel.
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Nelson Mandela is South Africa’s most well- known and celebrated historical figure. He is represented ubiquitously throughout South Africa. This study has analysed the representation of Nelson Mandela in selected Grade 12 history textbooks. This study is situated in the interpretivist paradigm. I employed content analysis as my methodology in order to understand how Mandela is represented in the textbook sample. There were various representations that emerged from the analysis. All representations constructed a wholly positive image of Mandela. He was represented as a prisoner, a celebrity, a martyr, a leader, an intellectual, an activist, a sage, a negotiator, a peacemaker, a saviour, and a reconciler. He was also represented as having a strong personal attributes such as being principled, firm, determined, unselfish, uncompromising, compassionate and forgiving. He was closely associated with the concept of freedom and the idea of a prototypical South African. Finally, this study showed that all these representations can be gathered into one overarching representation that being Mandela as a messiah. Mandela’s representation as a messiah fulfils the social need of uniting a postconflict society which is still in the process of constructing a new national identity. The goal of nation building is embedded in the curriculum which informs the content of the textbook. In pursuit of this goal, textbooks are a powerful medium in achieving such ends. Textbook producers are keen to please the authorities and thus regard Mandela as sacrosanct. In addition, by representing Mandela as a messiah, the textbook producers are giving South Africa what the public wants, a myth that will make South Africans feel good about themselves. In this study I concluded that the representation of Mandela in the textbook sample is an extension of the powerful mythology that surrounds him. Whilst post-1994 South African textbooks do not contain the old apartheid myths, new myths have since come to the fore.