When I heard the news on Thursday, December 5, that Nelson Mandela had passed away I felt an immediate and overwhelming personal loss and when I walked out onto our South African streets on Friday morning, I saw it in the faces of all whom I encountered. We seemed to be holding our collective breaths, unwilling to exhale if it meant acknowledging that such an iconic man had passed away from this life.
A line from the movie Troy kept repeating in my mind. They are the last lines of the movie, spoken by Odysseus: If they ever tell my story let them say that I walked with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Hector, tamer of horses. Let them say I lived in the time of Achilles. In an age when heroic men are very few and far between, I am so privileged to say that I lived in the time of Mandela.
It was a testimony to his legacy in South Africa, that all the people who were at the marking centre where I have been working for the last two weeks, came together in respect and communal sorrow to offer up prayers in 6 languages, representing 4 religions: we are the people of a land so long torn apart by unnatural divisions, and that we were there, joined in brotherly love is a direct consequence of Nelson Mandela's life.
However, I am deeply conscious that Nelson Mandela did not just belong to Africa; he belonged to the world. He embodies the theory that one man can change the face of history, and his message has had far-reaching impact around the globe. His official Memorial held in Johannesburg on Tuesday, December 7, was attended by nearly 100 heads of state from around the world, among them US President, Barack Obama, who delivered a stirring speech: "We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace."
|The homestead of Nelson Mandela, Qunu, SA|
Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters
Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest in his home district of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, SA on Sunday, December 15. (News24)
With this in mind, I would like to dedicate our Sunday feature to the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. This is not a prompt or a challenge in the usual sense. I leave it entirely open, for those who would like to participate, to share your thoughts in whatever form, theme or subject you feel moved to write. If you have written poetry inspired by Nelson Mandela earlier in the week, feel free to share it here again. I have added in the following words, spoken by Mandela during his life, in the hopes they may continue to inspire and uplift.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
"One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others."
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special."
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
"Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people."
"A society that does not value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future. Let us strive to enhance their capacity to support themselves for as long as possible and, when they cannot do so any more, to care for them."
"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come, But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."
Hamba Kahle, Tata Madiba