Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Last week the country, and the world, was rocked by the news of Nelson Mandela's death. Not that it was a huge shock, at 95 and a very ill man, we knew it would happen soon but it's still hits you when it happens.

A few things have struck me during this week, the most striking being how the vast majority of people, from all walks of life and various political persuasions, have turned full circle in their thinking on Nelson Mandela and respect him as a great man who did great things. I have been amazed how people in their 80's who were subject to massive amounts of propaganda about him have a new understanding now.

I was fortunate enough to have met this great man. He visited Valley Pre-Primary where I taught for 6 years. I remember that he was a very humble person, unassuming even and... that he was very tall! But what made the biggest impression on me that day were his hands!!! He had very big hands, good for boxing!

As a child I remember hearing about this almost mythical figure, Nelson Mandela, a "terrorist". Being white, I was very sheltered from the violence that was happening not too far away but even that which I knew about was explained to me through the lens of propaganda and an ideology of Apartheid.
In High School I did a project on the ANC/Nelson Mandela and for the first time began to understand it all in a different way.

It was around about the same time that F.W. de Klerk had the wisdom and foresight to release Nelson Mandela and start negotiations towards a democratic South Africa.

How grateful I am that God would use these 2 men - 1 white and 1 black, from opposite ends of the political spectrum to bring about such change in this beautiful country and many other places far and wide. However, for those of us who lived through Apartheid - on either side, the biggest change must surely be in our hearts and minds.

I think that for many people it was the forgiveness he showed on being released from prison that made them take a step back. It could've been so different. I've read so many stories this week about how he went out of his way to reconcile with people. My favourite is the one about how he invited all the living wives/widows of the previous Presidents to tea. Betsy Verwoerd could not make the trip due to her health, so Mandela made a special trip to see her and have tea with her at her home. Remarkable. There are many similar stories.

Now, 23 years later, my children, thankfully, do not live under Apartheid. They have neighbours of  every colour, they have friends from all races. However much has not changed. Their school is still cleaned exclusively by black people, they still see the huge poverty in which people, mostly black people, live.
Still their minds seem unable to comprehend the historical reasons for this being the case.

Of course they know who Nelson Mandela was, that he was the President but they do not know or understand fully the long road he walked to get there. It is still on my agenda to visit the District Six museum to be able to better explain to them the history of this country and what Nelson Mandela did.

Yesterday we went with some friends to The Grand Parade in Town to pay tribute to this man. 
It was hot!
But it was good. 
A worthwhile experience. 

We travelled in by train, the fact that, had it not been for people like Nelson Mandela, part of our group would not have been allowed to travel in the same carriage, was not lost on us.

At the Parade we found the huge "wall" of flowers and tributes - in all shapes and sizes.
We added ours to the thousands already there.
Then we wrote in the books of condolence.

Niaves message - completely unassisted and without any discussion!
I was quite surprised!
Ironically there has been an exhibition on at the Civic Centre in honour of Nelson Mandela running since his 95th birthday in July.
In the heat, we headed over. 
We were very glad to be in the air-conditioned  building for a while!!
It was also a worthwhile visit. A really lovely display and quite poignant in light of recent events.
Three banners stood out to me considering what is taking place right now and what has been said:
The events of the past week
not exactly a reflection
of this...
Just yesterday I heard people say that
he was like Moses!

Lots of valuable quotes on this one
but the one I thought was so relevant in the
current context is the line at the bottom:
"I am not a messiah but became a leader
because of extraordinary circumstances"

Another place to write a message.

I didn't agree with much of what the Methodist minister had to say at the memorial service on Tuesday but he ended with this which I thought was quite fitting and gave me goosebumps:

from: "If" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch.
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
if all men count with you, but none too much.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
with sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a man, my son!