The Madiba I saw from the distance

2013-12-06 10:57

A distinct voice and an accent that pronounces each word as if it's a prolific wave rushing in its grandeur design towards the shores of our humanity. His clenched fist hoisted high in the atmosphere became the symbol of a victory for a people whose entire history was marked by chains and an enslavement which belittled the sacredness of life.

The physical frame of Nelson Mandela spelt out magnanimity, fragility, obeisance, strength and survival. As a young boy I lived with the instruction of Nelson Mandela being an image of freedom and a figure whose individual struggle personified the struggle of those who bled and died in the name of the newness we find ourselves in today’s Republic of South Africa. I was taught and believed that Nelson Mandela was the gateway to the road of the re-imagined country we find ourselves in; with its beauties and challenges that cling to us. From the distance the television screens, radio sound-bites and newspaper clippings were the only way I could gaze at this larger-than-life name embedded in freedom songs. It was this life which allowed many to realise a gesture that enforced Blackness the ability to retain itself as a people of forgiveness.

Many of us have never been in the same room with Nelson Mandela. Many of us do not have any anecdotes to tell of the man. Some of us will never tell the “when I met Nelson...” stories. But as distant as we may have been to the man, there are many who carried his ideals that upheld the voice of the human spirit. This is the spirit to gaze straight at your enemy and shake hands with him/her to embrace the voice of peace.

Nelson Mandela also taught us to dance; he reminded us that life is a huge celebration of itself. He was a man whose body shook to the beat of Brenda Fassie's township song reminding us that the song that echoed in the taverns, the taxi rank and within the township's atmosphere was the same anthem that he will jive to in his unique Madiba-style. Madiba's presence became a magical essence in the sporting fields; victory would be certain and loss would lose its sting. Nelson Mandela wouldn't just dance, he wouldn't just be present but the old man would smile, smile and had laughter as if reminding us that life's war should perish and as if he was advising humanity that the peak of life's wonder is in the hearts ability to laugh.

So, I write these words, not as a son, a daughter, a family member, a comrade of Nelson Mandela. I speak as one who stood afar, as a child, from this figure who appeared “saintly”. I write this not as one who “knew” Nelson Mandela but I write it as a stranger, who has seen the celebration of 1994; this festivity, this new-era and jubilation was surrounded around this grey-haired figure, dressed in silky multi-coloured shirts, whose virtuousness we beheld.

Some would ask; who are you to assert yourself in scribing words on such a great statesman? I am merely a commoner who was raised under this gaze and obsession of this man. A man who made us believe in an ideal hued in colours of the rainbow. This ideal being the assertion that Black and White, Enemy and Forgiver, Befriended and Loner and Gentile and Jew can live side by side. I am merely a South African who now sees a dream which we imagined to be in Nelson Mandela’s eyes, a dream of equality and justice, being interrupted by the woes in today’s democracy.

Nelson Mandela, I now gaze, and find that you are no more.

Would love to know your sentiments on Madiba. Let me know your thoughts on twitter.... @jazz2ben

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