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Museum announces Mandela festival
The Nelson Mandela Museum is to run a year-long festival to celebrate the 90th birthday of the revered former president, Kader Asmal has announced.

The Nelson Mandela Museum is to run a year-long festival to celebrate the 90th birthday of the revered former president, museum council chairperson Kader Asmal announced on Thursday.

This period would also see the start of the renewal of the section of the museum housed in the Bunga building in Mthatha, he told a press conference in Cape Town.

"Mr Mandela's gift to the world is one of unbridled commitment to the principles of human rights, freedom, peace and democracy," he said.

"It is these values that we have tried to highlight in the birthday celebration programme."

The festival would be used to renew commitment to the values Mandela held dear, including respect for the Constitution and the dignity of human beings.

The festival will include a youth choir competition and a colloquium at the University of Fort Hare.

In Mthatha, there will be a youth football tournament, a "heroes marathon" and a seminar to celebrate not only Mandela's 90th birthday but that of African National Congress veteran Albertina Sisulu.

"It's a festival, a celebration, so there must be some sort of joy, of fun," Asmal said.

The programme will also see the launch of three exhibitions: one centred on children's' letters to Mandela and American civil rights activist Rosa Parks, another titled "the making of Mr Nelson Mandela", and the third a tribute to Mandela and former ANC leader Albert Luthuli.

Asmal said that as part of the programme, Mthatha's airport would be renamed after Mandela.

"Maybe they will get more flights there," he joked.

The museum, established ten years after Mandela was released, has sites in the Eastern Cape at Bunga, at Mvezo, where he was born, and Qunu, his retirement home.

According to the museum's chief executive officer, Kwezi Mpulwana, the museum draws about 46 000 visitors a year, just under a third of them from other countries.

A substantial number of the rest consisted of school groups, he said.

Asmal said the council wanted to establish a library at the Bunga building containing everything ever written about Mandela, from comic books to "great biographies and tomes".

It was hoped this would become a centre for scholars and researchers.

He said Michigan State University had agreed to assist in the renovation of the building, which suffered from damp and had not been redecorated "since time immemorial", and the reconfiguration of the exhibits.

Ways also had to be found to make Bunga play a greater role in the lives of the people of Mthatha.

"There is an urgent need for renewal of the museum," he said.

Kurt Dewhurst, director of the Michigan State University Museum, told the press conference that his institution had a long-standing relationship with the Mandela museum.

He was keen to see a research capacity established, so it became a "scholarly engaged" museum that produced publications and as well as travelling and online exhibitions.

"It's going to be a dynamic living museum, I think, as it moves into its next decade," he said. - Sapa