Today South Africa and the world celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. The 18th of July, Mandela Day, is a call to action for people to donate just 67 minutes of their time volunteering in honour of the 67 years of his life that Madiba devoted to activism. The South African media has been a frenzy with opportunities for people to volunteer on Mandela Day with many needy schools and charities benefiting from the sudden surge in altruism. There has been some critisicism that the Mandela name has been commodified, and to a certain extent it has. However, I think that if Mandela Day inspires people to mobilise, serve their communities and ultimately do a little bit of good, then it has been a success.
Nelson Mandela is truly a global icon. As South Africans, Madiba holds a very special place in our hearts. He is the man that brought this nation together, a former ‘terrorist’ turned hero and father of the new South Africa. The first time I saw Madiba, albeit from a distance, I couldn’t stop crying. This man who spend so many years in jail for my freedom, looked so weak and frail. I was moved, there was something so enduring and peaceful about him. It may sound sentimental, but in a way I honestly feel like he’s my own grandfather, and I am sure that many other South African’s feel the same. I love the painting by Peter Engels below, it really captures his spirit, the famous ‘Madiba magic’.
As South Africans I feel it crucial for us to know our heritage, to understand the important people and events that led to our freedom and democracy. Even if you haven’t read the tome that is Long Walk to Freedom, there are many opportunities to learn more about the Mandela legacy. There are a host of well-curated heritage attractions around South Africa that are significant in Nelson Mandela’s story. From his birthplace in Qunu, the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthata, and the Mandela House in Soweto, to his law practice at Chancellor House and Liliesleaf farm in Johannesburg, these heritage sites all relate stories of different parts of Madiba’s life. One can even do a Mandela route, following his footsteps from the Eastern Cape to Robben Island. My call to South Africans this Mandela Day is for us to explore these important heritage sites that are right in our backyards.
Tata Madiba, I wish you a happy birthday. I hope that the sun is Transkei sun is shining bright in Qunu. You have certainly brought us sunshine.
PS. If you’re in Joburg check out the Madiba @ 94 a mixed media exhibition tells the story of Madiba’s life through sculptures, cartoons, paintings, beadwork and prints, created by a range of artists from various cultural backgrounds.
Also check out this video: South Africa sings happy birthday for Madiba – Nelson Mandela Square