Mural in Montreal’s Little Burgundy to honour Nelson Mandela

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Celebrating a historical figure – Aug 5, 2020

It’s been thirty years since the late Nelson Mandela visited Montreal and the Union United Church in Little Burgundy, so a work of art is being commissioned to mark the anniversary.

A mural is to be painted on an outside brick wall at the church, and will be the latest space at the site to honour the former South African president and renown civil rights champion.

It makes perfect sense to Svens Telemaqe, outreach coordinator at the place of worship, since Union United, the city’s oldest Black church, was part of a global movement against apartheid.

“This church has so much history for advocating for rights, not just locally but globally,” he told Global News from the conference room where photos of Mandela’s visit hang from the wall.

Read more: Nelson Mandela Pavilion inaugurated in Montreal

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“I think it’s a dope project and I think it’s going to add more value to the city too and the area.”

The president of the Round Table on Black History Month, which initiated the project, said such a project is overdue.

“To have an icon of his stature, a politician, a militant for social justice in this context, for Little Burgundy? Wow! Wow!” said Michael Farkas.

At age 33, Telemaque said he he doesn’t even remember when Mandela came to visit. Still, he believes a mural is the way to go.

“Murals add so much more colour and flavour and culture to wherever they are,” he insisted.

Read more: Remembering Nelson Mandela’s historic 1990 visit to Canada

The artwork would be an addition to other outdoor frescoes of renown local Black figures like jazz legend Oscar Peterson and his sister and music teacher, Daisy Peterson Sweeney — both former residents of the neighbourhood who’ve made their mark on the city.

For Elizabeth-Ann Doyle, artistic director for Mu, the company overseeing the project, the mural will add to a public record of history.

“To leave a trace, to tell stories, to do education, to do politics,” she said.

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Selected Black artists will be asked to submit a proposal for the work, which must honour Mandela’s visit in today’s context, she said. One artist will be chosen.

The organizers are trying to raise $30,000 to fund the initiative and aim to have it completed by the end of September.

Donations can be made to the Union United Church, the Round Table on Black History Month, or Mu Montreal.

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