Christo Brand was one of the South African prison guards assigned to watch over an alleged terrorist prisoner.
Nelson Mandela was that prisoner, as well as a future Nobel Peace Prize laureate and future president of South Africa.
Against odds and behind bars, the two men forged a friendship.
Brand published a book telling that story and will speak Monday in the Gordon Parks Lecture Series event “A Conversation With Christo Brand.”
“It gives me goosebumps that we’re going to have this connection to a world figure here to talk with us,” said Ted Ayres, the general counsel for Wichita State University. “Christo is a very direct and real connection to Nelson Mandela, who I personally think was one of most influential people of our time, if not all history.”
The talk will be at 7 p.m. Monday in Lowe Auditorium at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex, WSU said in a statement. The complex is at 5015 E. 29th St. North. The event is free and open to the public.
Brand is coming because Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer asked him to speak here several weeks ago when the mayor and other Wichitans met Brand while visiting Africa, Ayres said.
Brewer asked Ayres to help arrange Brand’s visit, Ayres said.
He’ll tell a great story, Ayres said.
Brand, as an Afrikaner farm boy, grew up as part of the white culture that mistreated South Africa’s majority black people, WSU said in the statement.
He was a new recruit in the country’s prison service at Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid. Over time, Mandela grew to like him because of small kindnesses Brand did for Mandela. He put his job and future at risk in being kind to the prisoner.
During those years, Brand grew to realize that much of what he’d learned about black people and Mandela was myth, WSU said.
Their friendship continued long after Mandela’s release. Mandela, as South Africa’s president, gave Brand a job in the archives department of the country’s parliament, WSU said. Brand was one of the last people Mandela called to say goodbye to, shortly before his death.
WSU and the city of Wichita, in cooperation with Watermark Books, are hosting the talk. The talk will be conducted like an interview: Ayres will ask Brand questions at the event, WSU said.
Brand has not asked for a fee for his talk, Ayres said. So WSU and other sponsors are paying only his travel expenses, Ayres said.
The book Brand wrote, “Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend,” will be available, and Brand will sign books after his talk, WSU’s statement said.