Sharing the pain across oceans

2013-12-07 00:00

BANGKOK, December 6, 7.23 am.

In the back of my mind, if I am being completely honest, I had stopped paying attention to “The Mandela Watch”. I think we all knew the outcome was inevitable and it was just a matter of time until the news broke. That day has come, and waking up in Bangkok, which has been home for me for four years now, I could never have anticipated the sinking feeling and the tears that overwhelmed me at 5.30 am local time, just past midnight back home.

From my bed via Facebook and e-mail, I have spoken to friends and other journalists who have written me asking how I feel, all knowing I had a deep love and affection for Mandela.

I left South Africa in search of a better understanding of the world, in search of adventure, but there have certainly been times when I have felt I would love to pack it all in to be with my people, to be back in South Africa. Never has this been more true than today, I don’t know a lot of South Africans this side of the world, and it is a monumental task to try and convey a feeling like this to people who are not from South Africa. I feel like I want to be at home to hug someone who I see break down, knowing I understand how they feel, exactly how they feel, and them knowing why I am hugging them, I want to be at home today to cry with my people and celebrate an incredible man who gave us the opportunity to cry and celebrate together as one. Alas, I cannot do that.

So with a pile of tissues next to my bedside table, wobbly lips and lumpy heart, I said my own goodbyes to Madiba this morning while watching and re-watching Johnny Clegg’s performance of Asimbonanga in 1999, where Madiba joined him on stage and addressed the crowd, stating, “Well, it is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world, and at peace with myself. But I don’t see much movement in the back there. I would like us to join.”

Farewell our father, I hope there is plenty of music, dancing and beautiful shirts wherever you are. May we live up to your wishes and expectations. Thank you! We owe you one!

• Gareth Bright is a photographer from Pietermaritzburg and has freelanced for The Witness.

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