Invictus: Nelson Mandela's South Africa

PhotographerMark Edward Harris
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

A reflection upon Nelson Mandela and his legacy following his death in 2013.


Invictus: Mandela’s South Africa Two thousand and fourteen marks the first full year of a post-apartheid South Africa without Nelson Mandela who was able to put aside thoughts of revenge against his former captors to forge a truly democratic nation. But there are many others in the shadows that continue to bring the dark history of the apartheid years to light as well as being beacons for a better tomorrow. Some, including Ntozelizwe “Ntoza” Talakumeni, are now site interpreters at the most symbolic structure to apartheid, the political prison on Robben Island. Talakumeni, who was known as prisoner number 58/86 during his three years on the island, recalls how the poem Invictus, gave prisoner 466/64, Nelson Mandela, courage to continue his struggle against oppression. The poem, penned by William Henley, concludes with the stirring words, ‘I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.’ While Mandela had been moved to another prison by the time Talakumeni arrived on the island prison off of Cape Town in 1986, the legacy and the spirit of Mandela had taken root. While standing at the door of his former prison, Talakumeni points out that while the movie Invictus takes the liberty of using the poem for a dramatic scene between Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and South African Springbok captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) in the run up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, it was actually another equally passionate poem, Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” which Mandela excerpted and shared with the rugby star: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Mandela’s achieved his hope of recruiting and inspiring Pienaar to join his efforts to unite a divided nation. Following South Africa's underdog victory over New Zealand, President Mandela, wearing a Springboks rugby shirt and cap – once a dreaded symbol of apartheid - presented the Webb Ellis Cup to the South African captain. Two decades later South Africa still has significant issues as the many remaining townships pay testament to, but great people of all shades in the spirit of Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, and Ntozelizwe Talakumeni spend time in the arena to keep their country on the right track.

About Photographer

After graduating from California State University, Los Angeles with a Master of Arts Degree in Pictorial/Documentary History, Mark started his professional photography career doing the stills for the Merv Griffin Show and various television and movie companies. When the show ended in 1986 he set off on a four-month trek across the Pacific and throughout Southeast Asia, China and Japan. The images created on that trip brought attention to his travel and documentary photography. He since has visited and photographed in eighty countries. His editorial work has appeared in publications including Life, GEO, Wallpaper, Stern, Conde Nast Traveler, Islands, TravelAge, Playboy, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, W Magazine, The New York Times, The London Times, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, as well as many photography and airline in-flight magazines. His commercial clients range from The Gap for his fashion photography, Coca-Cola for portraiture, to cruise lines airlines and government tourist bureaus for his travel photography. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a CLIO Award and an Aurora Gold Award for his photographic work and an ACE Award for directing and producing a video for television. In the spring of 1998 Abbeville Press published Mark’s book “Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work” recording in both words and pictures many of the great names in photography. In March of 1999, the book won the prestigious New York Book Show “Photography Book of the Year” and “Best of Show” awards. Mark’s book “The Way of the Japanese Bath” (R.A.M. Publications), winner of a Premier Print Award, was published in February 2003 to coincide with a touring exhibition beginning at APEX Fine Art in Los Angeles. His third book “Mark Edward Harris: Wanderlust” (R.A.M. Publications) was released in November 2004. Images in that book led Mark to being named “Photographer of the Year” at the 2004 Black + White Spider Awards and the book itself being named the people/photography book of the year at the 2005 International Photography Awards. “Domicilium Decoratus” (Harper/Collins), collaboration with award-winning interior designer Kelly Wearstler, was released in 2006. In 2007 Chronicle Books published his book “Inside North Korea.” A revised edition of Wanderlust was also published in the same year and was the recipient of the first place award for Fine Art Books at the “Prix del la Photographie Paris (PX3). In 2008 Chronicle Books published “Inside Iran.” In 2009 a revised and expanded edition of The Way of the Japanese Bath was released. In 2013 "North Korea" and "South Korea" where published.