Sibongile Mafu

Musician Maxwell prepared me for Madiba

2013-12-12 15:15

Sibongile Mafu

What a surreal week. From when the news broke about the death of former president Nelson Mandela's death, what seems like a year's worth of news and story-telling and sadness and laughter has been crammed into the past few days.

His death has rattled not only the country, but also the world. Yes, he was 95 and frail and we all knew it was coming, but when it happened I felt a big sigh coming from within me. There aren't enough fingers on my hands to count the number of "wows" that escaped my mouth that night.

You know that question everyone asks about major events? Where were you when it happened? Where were you when you heard the news of this historic, life-changing event? Not many people will say they had just come from a spiritual experience. A lot of the time people are in the loo with their phone, or at party with friends, or driving home alone listening to the radio. Nothing earth - shattering or headline - grabbing.

I, for once, can claim to have had a spiritual experience right before I heard the news. I was at soul singer Maxwell's Cape Town concert, the first one in his three-city South African tour. The Grand West in the Mother City wasn't at capacity, but the people who were there were so very warm and appreciative and receptive and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

The only person who was having a better time was Maxwell himself. A talented musician, who so dearly loves South Africa, which showed in the care and class he displayed during his performance. He was phenomenal and hundreds of other people who shared the room with me shared the same sentiment. He swept us through performances of his older and newer tracks, but what stood out was just the sensitivity and thoughtfulness he displayed.

There was a roar throughout the venue, but there was also calm and a quiet. Something divine happened in that space.

And when I got home, all happy and glowing from the performance, the news came. I was alone. In the dark. On my phone. And I was calm, with just a few of those "wows" escaping my mouth.

My heart felt it first, and then my brain, and then my fingers switched everything on that it could. From the computer, to the radio, to the television to tweets. My silence was engulfed with noise and news, but my spirit had been prepared for this. I shared a few thought on Twitter with other South Africans, allowing myself to roll in all the feelings.

I managed to later switch everything off and sit in silence, knowing the painful and full life Madiba had lead. Thinking of his family as they dealt with the loss, not only now that he was gone but also the loss of him not having been around when he was alive. I thought of my own hero, my father back in Port Elizabeth, whose stature and demeanour also reminds me of Madiba and who I’m grateful for everyday.

I thought about South Africa and how incredibly joyous and frustrating a country it is. I made myself warm milk, something I never do, and went to sleep.

I don't want to talk about timing and events colliding, but it has to be said that I owe Maxwell an incredible amount for cushioning the blow, for wrapping me in his music and mastery so that I was okay that night. I was not alone.

My heart was so very full.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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