Purple Rain: 1989-2016

cover purple

On April 21, 2016, the world cried of Purple Rain in memory of the belated Prince Rogers Nelson – a provocative vocal artist and songwriter.

On September 2, 1989, Purple Rain also fell upon the anti-apartheid protesters in Cape Town, South Africa – just four months before Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.


“I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain” 

– lyrics from “Purple Rain”, Prince Rogers Nelson

Purple Rain had never intended to be as big as it became – it was an experiment. Prince had never acted prior to shooting and had employed a first-time producer and first-time director. In an interview with NPR, Alan Light, a music critic journalist, described how Prince tells a story about reality – about being different and about struggles of being the outsider.[1] But through his music, even a prior to the release of Purple Rain, Prince was able to gain bigger and wider audiences which included not only the black but also the white community.

In 1984 “Purple Rain” became a symbol of hope and peace.


Purple Rain Protest – TIME Magazine

However just four years later, the notion of “Purple Rain” took a different toll. With its racially segregated Parliament in South Africa, many came to the streets to peacefully protest against the apartheid just days before the election. After several warnings, the police entered the scene with a hose and sprayed purple rain over all the remaining protesters as an identification mark for further arrest. “Purple Rain” instead became a symbol of oppression – that is, until a turn of events happened when one of the protesters took the nozzle and instead sprayed the government office buildings purple.[2]

By 1989 “Purple Rain” became a symbol of civil disobedience, of anti-apartheid.


Shepard Fairey – Nelson Mandela Mural – RESPECT Magazine

27 years have passed between the Purple Rain in South Africa and the passing of Prince – exactly the length of time Nelson Mandela had spent at Robben Island Prison.[3] During the 27 years in prison, he had learned to persevere against the system and carved a path against apartheid or different-ness and led one of the world’s greatest peace movement.

We want to be a part of this movement in 2016 and on. Nish Kothari and I have been working on a Traveling Peace Pavilion – in honor of Mandela. Here, individuals take the 27 steps through the pavilion and walk for peace. Starting from the Bay Area (Market Street), where Mandela had once visited, the pavilion would travel through Washington D.C. and London, and finally end its journey in South Africa at the Apartheid Museum.

We are currently working through the logistics of the structure and media components, as well as the funding for the overall vision. We welcome any feedback on this project and we hope to see it through and to walk through the 27 steps in Purple Rain.

“I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past that I was leaving behind.”

― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

27 Steps – Nish Kothari & Anesta Iwan




[1] “All Possibilities: The ‘Purple Rain’ Story”. 2014. NPR.Org. http://www.npr.org/2014/12/06/368508262/all-possibilities-the-purple-rain-story.

[2] “Top 10 Most Influential Protests – TIME”. 2016. TIME.Com. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2080036_2080037_2080042,00.html.

[3] Released, This and Nelson prison. 2016. “Nelson Mandela Released From Prison – Feb 11, 1990 – HISTORY.Com”. HISTORY.Com. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nelson-mandela-released-from-prison.


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