The iMadiba project is a concept that uses the replicated space of Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island prison cell to provide a physical space for people to have open and honest conversations.

It was conceptualised and created by Stellenbosch-based photographer and artist, Erhardt Thiel. Thiel’s dream was to erect 100 installations of the micro museums in Madiba’s centenary year, which ended on 17 July 2019.

The iMadiba micro museums are built in partnership with and in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The project forms a key part of the foundation’s work in honouring Madiba and creating conversations among South Africans. In 2018, there were 20 micro museum sites built in a range of locations from schools and universities to museums and sculpture parks. The Joburg headquarters of Econorisk is among the 18 sites completed in 2018, adding to the diversity of the project.

“In the insurance industry there are numerous events through the year, each of which provides an opportunity for us to engage and start a conversation,” says Andrew Lilley, CEO at Econorisk. “While events such as awards evenings, product launches and educational summits are important, we should take a few lessons out of the iMadiba book: Make time to engage with people around you at events – and in general. Break down walls, start conversion and embrace the diversity that the insurance industry – and South African society in general – offers.”

Thiel describes the sculpture as a “conversation station”.

“The inspiration for the design came about as a desire to see the walls broken down to create a safe space for brutally honest conversation,” he says. “A central part to the iMadiba concept was to create a project that could get people to associate themselves actively with the value systems of South Africa’s former president.

“In naming the sites or discussing them, we must use the words “I” and “Madiba”, which opens our minds to finding ways in which we can emulate his values.”

Says Lilley, “There are plenty of lessons that we can learn from the iMadiba project and the value systems of South Africa’s former president. Starting a conversation is just the beginning.

“Visitors to the Econorisk offices are invited to take a moment to visit our iMadiba installation and embrace the space.”

And if you are ever in the vicinity of any of the micro museum sites, see if you can visit them and start a conversation.