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Kweku, Grandson of Nelson Mandela, On Establishing His Own Legacy

Arriving in Australia off the back of one of the most successful global events of the year, Kweku Mandela believes more than ever in the responsibility to empower young people to change the world.

Mandela, a film director and producer, was in Melbourne this week visiting an exhibition on the life of his grandfather, the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

It caps off a series of events honouring the centenary year of the late Mandela, who has long been considered 'the father of the nation' and credited with helping end apartheid in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela, visiting the exhibition at Melbourne Museum. Image: Rodney Start, Museums Victoria

Kweku Mandela takes after his grandfather in many ways. He is passionate about social justice issues including extreme poverty, battling HIV, and youth empowerment.

The stories he tells through film often focus on young protagonists and one of his new companies -- production company Out of Africa Entertainment -- works to support budding South African film-makers.

Image: Rodney Start, Museums Victoria

Mandela has been involved in hundreds of film and TV productions for over a decade, and in a sit-down interview with 10 daily, Mandela said he has gravitated towards working with youth to help them realise their potential to create change.

"I've never been shy regardless of someone's age or experience, to work with them and listen to their ideas," he said.

"That's what really inspires me, knowing there's an entire younger generation who is really awakened to the fact that there are bad things that happen in the world."

Born in Transkei, South Africa, Mandela grew up in the USA before returning to his homeland in 1993.

He said he doesn't believe he has a specific responsibility to advocate for global change, just because of the legacy of his grandfather -- it's his choice.

"We are in the driver's seat regardless of who your parents or your grandparent may be," Mandela said.

"I think we all have collective responsibility to be the best version of ourselves."

Mandela said his grandfather thought similarly, often telling his family that their legacy would not be up to him.

"He [Nelson] used to say, 'it's your life, you need to decide what you're going to do with it, I've done all I can do'," Mandela said.

Rodney Start, Museums Victoria

Like his grandfather, he believes in challenging our ways of thinking.

"He was extremely warm and humane," Mandela said of Nelson.

"I think one of the biggest things he ever did was that he never stopped learning... even when he came out of prison at age 75, everything was new to him."

Mandela said it's normal in the current fast-moving society to "get stuck in our own viewpoints."

"We have to remember we have the ability to not do that, even if that's against the will and collective thinking of the people you trust."

Mandela said while statistically the world is are eradicating global poverty, there is still a long way to go, but a rising voice of people demanding change from political leaders is certainly helping.

Kweku Mandela in Sydney on Thursday. Image: Supplied.

The 33-year-old also told 10 daily of his time living in Sydney in the early 2000s.

At the time, he volunteered with Oxfam, and said he would stand at Central Station and Circular Quay to promote the organisation. It was during his time living in Sydney that Mandela met Hugh Evans, former Young Australian of the Year and co-founder of Global Citizen, one of the world's largest international advocacy organisations.

The organisation encourages young people to take small action -- petitions, sending emails and tweeting -- calling on leaders to commit to eradicating poverty and ensuring global gender equality, food security, sanitation and education.

CEO of Global Citizen Hugh Evans. Image: Supplied.

In 2018, citizens from around the world took nearly six million actions as part of the program, which led to commitments worth US$7 billion.

The events culminated in a massive international festival, held in Johannesburg earlier this month, in honour of "Mandela 100".

Evans and Mandela, who was the executive producer of the event, worked for months with a huge international team to create the event, featuring headline performances from stars including Beyonce, Jay Z, Ed Sheeran and Oprah Winfrey.

The festival stems from Evans' work alongside fellow Aussies Simon Moss and Wei Soo, which started in 2006 with the Make Poverty History festival, during which one million Australians signed up.

"Kweku and I had this dream that we could celebrate Nelson Mandela's centenary anniversary, and use that moment to rally together people... behind his vision of a world without poverty," Evans told 10 daily.

Image: Supplied.

Evens said the festival gave an opportunity to convince world leaders to step up in ways never done before.

"It really takes a village, not one thing that's happening we can do by ourselves. This is  a true movement of millions of citizens who are willing to take action."

Mandela and Evans are hoping to continue spreading the vision of Global Citizen next year and beyond.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au

Featured Image: Rodney Start, Museums Victoria