Indian money

By Alice Hutchins

There are names in history that every person should recognise. These are the names of inspiration, the people who have excelled in their disciplines and set precedents in their goals for which we should all strive. The lessons these people teach ring with truths in every person’s life, truths about struggle and choices, perseverance and determination, and above all, conviction in the face of adversity. These are the BBC icons.

The BBC have devoted its recent series to exploring the lives of these remarkable people, and honouring the achievements that they made possible. The Icons chosen come from all over the world, including parts of America, the UK and the Global South. Each week of the series features a category for which four icons are nominated, and it was up to the public to vote who is the greatest icon in their chosen subject. All of the winners from the seven categories were then compared until it could be decided who was the ‘Greatest Person of the 20th Century.’

Following on from our recent blog on how creativity can shape the world, some of the categories from the icon programme fall into this artistic field, such as Entertainers, Sports Stars, and Artists/Writers. The other factions in the programme feature Political Activists and leaders, Scientists and Explorers. For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on only a few of the icons, who relate to the Global South.

  • The first Icon is a recognisable face on the GSAN page, Nelson Mandela (please see previous blog here.) Mandela was a political leader in the South- African Apartheid movement, fighting for Civil Rights and equality within his country. He is most famous for his work ‘The long walk to freedom’, his 27-year jail sentence, and Serving as the first Black president in South Africa.
  • Next, we meet Gertrude Bell, although she is English and not from the Global South, she is an explorer most famed for travels and writing of Arabia, and for helping to support and establish the modern state or both Syria and Iraq.
  • In a similar fight for equality and freedom, in a very different area of the world is Mahondas Gandhi, an Indian political activist who lead the independence movement from British rule, he is known for his peaceful stance against injustice, and was assassinated for his beliefs in an equal world.
  • Pele, the famous Brazilian Footballer, is argued by many to be the greatest sportsman to have ever lived, and his is an inspirational story of rising from an under-developed. Financially unstable background, to a life of wealth and success. The power of watching him play was enough to momentarily cease a civil war in Nigeria.

When it came down to the final vote on 5th February 2019, the public chose Alan Turing, an English Mathematician and computer scientist as the overall, greatest influence of the 20th Century, but the BBC series has highlighted how important it is for us to stay connected with our histories, and honour the people who paved the way for our futures.