Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid stickers
- in all, the faith of graffiti
Two stickers in my collection focus on Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid in South Africa. The first states “Stop Apartheid, Boycott Shell – Owen Bieber, UAW President and National CAP Chairman,” and the date 1985 is penciled on the back.
Owen Bieber was then President of the American United Auto Workers Union and a strong Mandela supporter. In 1984, Bieber was even arrested in an anti-apartheid demonstration in DC. An article entitled “Campaign to Boycott Shell” in the United States Anti-Apartheid Newsletter (Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 1986) describes Bieber’s role in the campaign and the call for “Shell and other companies doing business in South Africa to stop ‘buttressing’ apartheid. The major objective of the campaign is to educate the American people on the role of multi-national corporations in a country which has statutes allowing them to seize oil and computer companies on the basis of security and war needs.” (Sound familiar?) After Mandela was released from prison, he traveled in 1990 to the United States and during one stop met with UAW members at a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, with Bieber at his side.
The second sticker, “Nelson Mandela Must Be Set Free!!!,” was produced in 1988 by The Pyramid Complex, PO Box 21212, Washington, D.C., with a phone number listed as (202) 332-3908. At the time, the anti-apartheid leader Mandela would have been in jail for 26 years after having been arrested in 1962 and charged with treason for attempting to overthrow the South African government.
The International Institute of Social History has another sticker from The Pyramid Complex that states “Free South Africa Now!” with the same address and phone number, though dated 1989. It’s housed at the Nederlands Instituut voor Zuidelijk Afrika in Amsterdam. The catalogue record for it is here, and a low-res screen shot of the sticker is below.
The IISH put together a Web dossier memorial tribute called Nelson Mandela and the Netherlands, where you can find several stickers. In addition, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (where Mandela studied law) has an online collection called KAIROS, Dutch anti-apartheid organization 1970s-1990s, which includes stickers from The Pyramid Complex. There are no pictures, but the collection is described as:
- Details: Stickers. Stickers with various slogans in English and Dutch: ANC, Anti Apartheid, Anti Shell, Trade Union slogans, Solidarity with SWAPO. The sources and dates are not known, except for a few of the stickers [that] have The Pyramid Complex, Washington DC, 1989 printed on them.
The only other reference I can find for The Pyramid Complex is a book they published by W. Bruce Willis called The Adinkra Dictionary: A Visual Primer on the Language of Adinkra (1998).
The IISH mentioned above is an online database/archive that actually includes stickers. In fact, when I do a search for stickers in their catalogue, I get over 4,200 results! Based on my initial review, the stickers come from Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Namibia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some date back to the 1920s and ‘30s, but most appear to be from the 1970s to 1990s. There is even a handful of I.W.W. stickerettes!