Nelson Mandela: The life and times of a hero

For more than half a century, the name of Nelson Mandela was synonymous with the struggle against inequality and unflinching dignity in the face of tyranny. 

The South African leader was a tireless warrior for justice, remaining steadfast through 27 years behind bars and emerging unbowed to bring freedom and reconciliation to his people.

Now, as the great statesman is laid to rest in the country he transformed into a "rainbow nation" and by millions more besides, we celebrate his extraordinary life in pictures.



He passed away on 5 December, with his wife Graça Machel at his side. He is also survived by the three daughters from his first two marriages. He'd also been visited in recent days by his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela–Mandela.

Born in 1918, he was destined to become, like his father before him, a councillor for the royal family of Thembuland in the Eastern Cape Province.

Astonishingly, his birth name Rolihlahla – Nelson was given him by a primary school teacher – foreshadowed his extraordinary career. In his native Xhosa it means "troublemaker".

He turned his back on traditional life, to become a freedom fighter and the world's most famous political prisoner. Then in the last great chapter of his life at 75 when many of his generation were enjoying retirement he was sworn in amid jubilant scenes as his country's first black president.

The fascinating story of his life is told in these remarkable photos.

Who can forget the sight of him triumphantly leave jail in 1990? The raised fist showing his followers that he'd kept a promise made years before when he told them in his quietly determined way: "I will return."

The later images encompass his travels around the globe, being feted by the Queen, Naomi Campbell and Bono amongst others.

Unfailingly courteous, always smartly dressed, usually in one of his African print shirts, he was a living embodiment of the values he espoused – fairness, tolerance and justice.

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