Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela

An exhibit of 51 quilts by quilt artists from the Women of Color Quilters Network

April 14 – July 1, 2018

Conscience of the Human Spirit, a traveling exhibit from the Michigan State University Museum, features 51 extraordinary quilts created by members of the Women of Color Quilters Network. Each quilt depicts an aspect of Nelson Mandela’s life, offering perspectives on the life of our era’s most revered champion of human rights as well as the special importance the South African leader’s legacy has for African Americans.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black head of state and first head of state elected in a fully representative democratic election, devoted much of his life to overthrowing the system of institutionalized racism known as Apartheid. Imprisoned for 27 years for his efforts, his incarceration ignited global awareness of Apartheid and a global movement demanding his release, which came in 1990, and political reform. As President, Mandela worked tirelessly for racial reconciliation in South Africa, and strove to decrease poverty and make healthcare more widely available. He declined a second term, choosing to serve as an elder statesman and continuing to work towards these ideals through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Throughout his life, Mandela provided a moral compass for how human beings should see and treat one another while creating a just, non-racist, democratic society.

Artists around the world have long made quilts in tribute to Nelson Mandela and in support and advocacy for the principless to which he was devoted. But it has been for South Africans and African Americans that making quilts in tribute to the peacemaker has had special meaning. An exhibition featuring over 80 quilts made in 2013 and 2014 was developed by the Michigan State University Museum and the Women of Color Quilters Network in association with quilt artists across South America and was showcased in July 2014 at the International Quilt Conference Africa in Johannesburg.

The 51 quilts made by the U.S. quilt artists are featured in this exhibit at the Mariposa Museum. These diverse and powerful pieces reflect the ways in which this remarkable man touched individual lives, changed a nation, and served as the conscience of the human spirit for individuals around the world.

The Mariposa Museum is proud to host this exhibit in what is both its New England debut and the last stop in its tour. Following Its run at the Mariposa, quilts will be returned to their creators.

Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi

Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi

Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela is curated by Marsha MacDowell, Ph.D., Professor and Curator, Michigan State University Museum and Director of The Quilt Index, and by Carolyn Mazloomi, Ph.D., Independent Scholar and Founding Director of the Women of Color Quilters Network.

Exhibit Sponsors

The hosting of the Conscience of the Human Spirit exhibit at the Mariposa is made possible thanks to the following generous sponsors and supporters:

Presenting Sponsors:




Putnam Foundation

Business Sponsors:

Concord Street Health Institute, Gilbert Verney Foundation, Goodeve & Co, Green Energy Options, Jack Daniels Motor Inn, Jellison Funeral Home, Joseph’s Coat, Pinney Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning, and Rivermead

Individual Supporters:

Beate Becker, David Blair and Lina Hervas, Lynn Clowes, Dita and Bob Englund, Don and Lee Englund, Joyce and Don Healy, Mary Vallier Kaplan, Lenny Matcznysky, Bob and Emily Winterbottom, Jean Rosenthal, Eileen Sarson, Penny Shanks, and Leslie Voieres