Mandela exhibition marks 50 years since his jailing

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Archives documenting Nelson Mandela's life went on display on Monday to mark 50 years since the iconic South Africa leader arrived at the infamous Robben Island to serve a life prison sentence.

The Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which had been closed for renovations for nearly a year, houses a wide array of documents on the life of the anti-apartheid leader.

Some of the items on display show Mr Mandela's prison card, with the date of his arrival on Robben Island on May 27 in 1963. Also on show is a grey and tattered warrant of committal issued by the Supreme Court on Nov 7, 1962.

"The centre now offers the public an opportunity to view the physical documents, not just the digital images," said Sello Hatang, spokesman for the centre.

In March 2012, the centre, with the help of Google, transformed thousands of handwritten documents, photographs and videos of Nelson Mandela into a digital searchable online collection.

The revered leader, regarded as the father of democracy in South Africa, spent 18 years in the island prison off the coast of Cape Town after he and others were found guilty of treason.

He was later transferred in 1982 to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town and later to Victor Verster prison in the nearby town of Paarl, until his release in February 1990.

In 1994 he became the country's first black president, ending decades of whites-only apartheid rule.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate then served a single term in office before retiring from public life in 2004.

The frail 94-year-old has been in and out of hospital recently, where he spent 10 days until April 7 being treated for pneumonia.