Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nelson Mandela Has Gone Home


In South African indigenous cultures, death is only reserved for animals. The human spirit lives on so it is said that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has passed on, he has gone to join the ancestors, he has gone home. I have spent the last few weeks mourning this  inevitable fact, along with the rest of the world. Madiba (his Xhosa clan name) represents so much more than a political leader to me.  The brutal inhumanity of apartheid that he and his people braved, from being torn from his ancestral land to being imprisoned for 27 years because he had the audacity to protest, is inspiring not because he survived but that he refused to surrender his dignity or humanity during the process. He goes down in history for his formidable feat of forgiveness and reconciliation but he was also a  seasoned fighter who knew when to wage a battle and when to fall back. My own political awareness began with images of the children of Soweto fighting off armed police, posting "Free Mandela" posters on my college campus and arguing for the morality of divestment of South African ventures. Watching the greatness of Madiba's life played back over the last few weeks has made me realize how little we have done to promote justice and equality and how crucial it is for global peace. His most memorable words during the Rivonia Trial of 1964, which would result in a life imprisonment sentence, still hold lessons for us all:

"During me 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 opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."


He lived to see his ideal practiced in theory but the reality is still a distance away for many South Africans and people around the world, including the U.S. I don't know if we will  ever witness another freedom fighter with the strength and conviction of Madiba again but I do know that there are too many battles that will continue to be waged. Like most great political movements, music played a significant role in the struggle to end apartheid and release Mandela and other political prisoners. There are dozens of songs that celebrate Madiba and call for his return but my favorite is this one by Vusi Mahlasela, "the Voice of South Africa." You can hear the beauty and fortitude of the South African spirit in his soaring vocals. You can also hear the wisdom of his urging, "We must give something to the world and not just take from it."







5 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

Beautiful post for our beloved Madiba.

Here's to you and your family and to a glorious new year to all of you. I hope you had a great Christmas, too.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano,
Thanks,Prospero Ano to you and your family as well!

Andrew Graeme Gould said...

What really strikes me the most here are those words from the singer, "We must give something to the world and not just take from it." It seem to me that the troubles of the world are caused by selfishness...

Fly Girl said...

Andrew,
Yes,I think you're right.

Catherine said...

Wonderful tribute - beautifully expressed.....
Happy New Year from Nice