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Celebrity and Solidarity in the Struggle Against South African Apartheid

One of the memorable moments of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa was the tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, London to Nelson Mandela for his 70th birthday in 1988. While Mandela was still imprisoned on Robben Island, images from the concert in his honor were broadcast to 67 countries and reached an audience of 600 million. The event featured an impressive lineup of the most celebrated artists of the time and was a highpoint of the use of culture and celebrity in the anti-apartheid struggle. This panel focuses on the marriage of celebrity and protest that had characterized the anti-apartheid movement from its early days in the 1950s. Louise Bethlehem, Tal Zalmanovich, Yair Hashachar, and Tiferet Bassel will examine the roles celebrities played in generating protest against the apartheid regime and creating solidarity with oppressed black South Africans. They will explore how performers such as Miriam Makeba or religious leaders such as Anglican bishop Trevor Huddleston used their fame to mobilize anti-apartheid resistance and international awareness to injustice.

Professor Louise Bethlehem will survey how culture played a role in the global anti-apartheid struggle. Dr. Tal Zalmanovich will discuss how religion and fame intersected in the fight against apartheid by focusing on “The Most Photographed Christian After the Pope” Trevor Huddleston Dr. Yair Hashachar will outline how Miriam Makeba rose to Pan-Africanist musical stardom. Tiferet Bassel fill focus on how Nelson Mandela was constructed as a global celebrity through photography.

About the Speakers

Louise Bethlehem is a literary scholar and cultural theorist. She holds the position of Associate Professor in the Department of English and in the Program in Cultural Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Yair Hashachar is a doctoral student in the department of musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and teaches African music at Ben Gurion University. He studies the intersections between music, sound technologies, political ideologies, and cultural policies in Africa.

Tal Zalmanovich is a historian of modern Britain and media. She’s also a podcast host at the New Books Network.

Tiferet Bassel is a graduate student in the Cultural Studies program at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. For her thesis project, she is exploring the circulation of texts of books and of culture between apartheid South Africa and India.

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