Pacifica Man Photographed Nelson Mandela at International Tribute

Two months after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela took the stage in London and local photographer Steve Rapport was there to snap a photo.

Nelson Mandela, 1990. Photo by Steve Rapport
Nelson Mandela, 1990. Photo by Steve Rapport
Steve Rapport of Pacifica was a professional photographer for about 14 years during the 1980s and early 90s "doing mostly rock and roll," he said, photographing a lot of the big names of the era including David Bowie and Annie Lennox.

Still, one of his luckiest breaks was when he was one of the official photographers at "Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa," a music concert that took place on April 16, 1990, at Wembley Stadium, London, and was broadcast to more than 60 countries. It was held two months after the release of Mandela from a South African apartheid prison where he spent 27 years. 

"I was in the photo pit at the front when he took the stage and spoke, but I didn’t meet him," said Rapport although he remembers the moment well.

Mandela was on stage for 45 minutes, of which the first eight minutes was taken up by a standing ovation. 

He addressed his supporters saying, “Thank you that you chose to care,” and urging them to continue the fight against apartheid.

Rapport shared that photo he took 23 years ago with Patch in the photo gallery above.

The success of an earlier concert, a 70th birthday-tribute concert to Mandela in June 1988, held while the South African leader was still behind bars, inspired the organizer Tony Hollingsworth to produce the 1990 concert. The aim of the 70th birthday event was to raise consciousness about South Africa and Mandela and his imprisonment.

Also referred to as Freedomfest, Free Nelson Mandela Concert and Mandela Day, the "Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute" was broadcast to 67 countries and an audience of 600 million with performances by Sting, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Whoopi Goldberg, Simple Minds, UB40, Whitney Houston, and the composer of "Free Nelson Mandela," Jerry Dammers, the founder of ska-punk band The Specials. The event is credited with hardening popular opposition internationally to the apartheid regime. 

Mandela’s death last week comes months after his 95th birthday on July 18, which his foundation, various charities and businesses vowed to celebrate with a nationwide day of service in the spirit of Mandela's 67 years of activism and public work.

Read Nelson Mandela's 1990 Wembley Stadium concert speech here or watch the live broadcast here.

See more of Steve Rapport's work here.


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