Christo Brand: Doing Life with Mandela – My Prisoner, My Friend

November 3, 2023 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Salem Athenaeum
337 Essex St.
MA 01970
$10 Members/$15 General Admission
Salem Athenaeum
Salem Athenaeum is excited and honored to host Christo Brand, author of Doing Life with Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend, in conversation with Andrew Russell.

After a year’s training in Kroonstad, Christo Brand was sent to work on Robben Island in 1978 at the age of 19. That was when he first encountered Nelson Mandela, who at that time was 60 years old. During their time together on Robben Island the two men formed a relationship which was to become a lasting friendship based on a mutual trust and respect.

On his release from prison, Mandela organised a job for Christo as an administrative and logistics manager in South Africa’s Constitutional Assembly. Once the country’s new Constitution was adopted, the former political prisoner Ahmed Kathrada arranged for Christo to start work again on Robben Island – this time as supervisor in the island shop. The wheel had turned full circle, and Christo was back where he had started his career.

In July 2018 Christo took the bold step to resign from Robben Island in order to pursue his dream of sharing his story on a full-time basis. Since then, he has toured many countries around the world and become a highly sought-after public speaker. He is one of those rare people still alive who knew Mandela so intimately – as a prisoner, as president, and after his retirement. Mandela’s family invited Christo to be a guest of the family at his funeral in Qunu in December 2013.

The lifelong friendship Brand forged with Mandela is the subject of his memoir, first published in 2014. The book’s London launch was presided over by Mandela’s daughter Zindzi, at her late father’s behest. An updated edition was published in 2022 with a special section edited by Andrew Russell containing freshly commissioned writings by 16 people who knew both men well — including fellow political prisoners, family members, European and North American activists and educators, and a member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission — Doing Life with Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend is more timely than ever, showing as it does the difference that personal respect and friendship can make in a racially divided society and under an oppressive regime.

This is a hybrid program, but it will not be recorded.