Yem-Yem’s tributes

2013-12-13 00:00

THE people of Qunu called him Yem-Yem, Baba and Dalibunga — anything but “Nelson” — when they got their chance to write farewell messages to their patriarch yesterday.

But a few weren’t yet ready to let Nelson Mandela go, with one saying “We miss you pleez come back” — while another was bitter with regret: “I never got a chance to say goodnight”.

Writing on two vast sheets of white canvas at the Nelson Mandela Museum, hundreds of Mandela’s fellow villagers — mostly the teenagers — revealed a striking array of affectionate names in their messages. They included “Dlomo”; “Daddy”; “Madiba” and “Papa” — among the children, even “Mandiba” was common — but “Tata” and his local clan name Yem-Yem was how most in his rural village addressed the former president.

Bonani Mnywele, a 21-year-old student in Qunu, said that, like many others, she had been unable to deliver a “rest in peace” card to Mandela’s front gates.

“So it was great to be able to write my message to him in this way; to let him know how I felt,” she said. “He shook my hand in 1999; I’ll never forget it.”

Within a half-hour frenzy of written emotion at the “wall of tributes”, Lundi Mtyankulu wrote: “God has revealed secrets to you”.

The Ndaba family said: “Yem-Yem you are our hero”; and one boy, Simphiwe Ngese, wrote: simply “Gud night daddy”.

Some were poetic: “May the songs we sing accompany you to paradise”; others were philosophical — like “The whole world has lost someone — but we accept, if it’s the Lord’s will” — and even fatalistic: “Death is something inevitable”.

But most echoed the message of a young person who wrote: “We luv u Tata Mandiba very mush”.

And virtually none mentioned the word “president”; instead focusing on Mandela’s roles as “teacher” and “father”.

Fumanekile Wisani, curator of the panels for the museum, said he had encouraged visitors to write their notes in their home languages, and that the wall featured tributes in German, Venda and Dutch, and drawings.

Wisani said his favourite was a message penned by a man who had travelled from Limpopo. Modiri Teku wrote: “Hamba kahle Mkhonto we Sizwe”.

One mischievous tribute-giver hid an electioneering plug in his tightly written script: “We will unite now as blacks and whites and vote for ANC”.

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