This project, initiated by the Round Table on Black History Month and the United Union Church, honours Nelson Mandela’s memorable visit to Montreal 30 years ago. On June 19, 1990, just a few months after his February 1990 liberation, Mandela made a whirlwind stopover in Montreal, one of the first cities in the world to have actively campaign against apartheid. The South African leader went to the United Union Church to greet congregation members who were at the forefront of the struggle to free African National Congress political prisoners and take down South Africa’s apartheid laws. Mandela was also received by the mayor of Montreal, Jean Doré, at city hall, where a crowd of nearly 20,000 people stood in Champ-de-Mars cheering him on.
The mural, Un long chemin vers la liberté, shares the same title as Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and was created by the visual artist Franco Égalité, in collaboration with Kevin Ledo, Isabelle Duguay and a team of devoted assistants. It is designed to draw the eye towards Mandela’s raised fist, a symbol of courage, hope and the quest for equality and freedom for all. Rays of sunlight beam from his hand, and a crowd swells below it. The piece is mindful of the tree standing in front of it and works with it to create multiple readings. To the left of the tree is Mandela, the diplomat with the iconic smile. To the right, is his raised fist, symbol of the strength of his conviction, and a crowd composed of folks of all ages, kinds and colours who are keeping the fight alive. Above it all, a quote invites the viewer to get closer to read what it says behind the branches.
MU is extremely proud to have contributed to this project that is significant and highly symbolic for Black communities and all of Montreal. This mural is a symbol of light and dignity that commemorates history and affirms our commitment to the fight against racism. This artwork is at the heart of MU’s values and mission to create encounters between citizens and art and make public art that spreads knowledge and stimulates social change. This mural is a true message of hope in the constant and ongoing battle against discrimination and racism.