Saturday, 14 December 2013

Ta-ta, Tata Mandela

('Ta-ta' in some dialects of English is an informal and friendly 'Goodbye'. 'Tata' is the isiXhosa word for 'Father')

You've heard, right?

One of my heroes passed away just recently. He was, of course, many MANY people's hero so at least I need never feel alone in my sadness.

South Africa, for the last week or so has been an understandably emotional place to be. There's been moments of great celebration and moments of great sadness. And the warmth and love of all the other people around the world who are sharing South Africa's sense of loss is tangible and comforting.

And for the most part, South Africans are united in their sadness at Madibas passing and keen to continue in his stead and with his example as their guide. The Head of opposition party the Democratic Alliance put it so simply:

“He has handed the baton to us and we dare not drop it

Yesterday morning, as his three days of Lying in State ended and his body was transported from Waterkloof airbase to Qunu, where he lived as a boy and will be laid to rest today (Sunday) - Hubs and I sat up in bed and watched the live TV coverage of the ANC organised farewell. A large marquee filled with rows of chairs that soon filled up with family and dignitaries and friends. It was smaller, more personal than the big scale memorial at FNB stadium last week and as Hubs and I listened to voices singing, heard one of Mandela's Grandsons, Mandla, talk. The tears were falling again. 

This mornings funeral service in Qunu.
And this morning, in the rural village of Qunu, Mandela's family and friends are joined by some 5,000 or so guests in a specially constructed Arena to make the final farewells and whilst I find myself really wanting to write this, my 'Mandela Post', it's not an easy one to write. Not just because it's so darned sad but because there has been SO MUCH said and done in celebrating his life and in his memory this last ten days, where do I start in telling you lovely folk how this last week's been here with us?

I've decided (just now this second as I write) to give you some of my highlights, if that's the right word. The things that have moved me most, some sad some funny, in this week of an entire country in mourning.

The Traditions

From the moment the news spread from Madiba's Houghton home that he had passed, wheels went into motion. And I'm not talking about the Political wheels which were also quick to move, I'm talking about the wheels of tradition that come from his family, his people.

There is simply a way things should be done in African culture, and I've loved hearing about some of the traditions involved. Here's some examples.

1. The singing and dancing. When Africans are sad, they sing and dance. In large numbers. It's kinda awesome to watch. And join in!

2. In Xhosa culture, when someone dies away from their birthplace their family visit the body to fetch the spirit and take it back. When the family arrived in Houghton, they spoke to Mandela's spirit and explained that they were there to bring him home.

3. Back at Mandela's home in Qunu, the villagers come together to help the family prepare for the funeral. In their attempts to alleviate as much stress and worry for the family as possible, this can involve anything from repairing, cleaning and readying the house so it looks it's best for visitors to cooking and day to day chores, sometimes cooking for many family members and visitors and preparing formal and traditional meals. I saw a local lady being interviewed, she was dressed in traditional black dress, draped with some of the Mandela family colours and with a deep yellow/orange sash, which represents the soil. She said she arrived at the house to help with her mat and blanket (she'll nap where and when she can) and with some Crackers and water, because she won't eat any of the food she so lovingly prepares for the family and visitors.

4. Mandela will be buried at noon (an hour from now), "when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest".

5. Graca Machel, Mandela's widow, is expected to remain in mourning for a year and during this time she will wear black every day. At the end of the mourning period, family visit to celebrate and bring gifts for the Widow and any children. Interestingly, I read somewhere that the purpose of the gifts is to replace items that were used or shared with the deceased, to help the family move on. Such as beds, chairs, bedding etc. Some time after the end of the grieving, a joyous celebration will take place as Mandela's spirit is called to look down upon his family as one of the Ancestors.

The Soweto Gospel Choir Flashmob

This movie clip has viralled somewhat since it was first shown to us here in SA on the news last weekend but whether you've seen it already or not, a bit more inside information will I think help you understand quite how special it was.

Imagine this, you've just heard about Madiba's passing. You're in Woolies Greengrocers in (v. posh) Parkhurst sadly squeezing Avo's and trying to get yourself in the mood for dinner plans. Suddenly, a lone voice rings out. Singing a well know Mandela tribute song by well know SA artist Johnny Clegg. Another voice joins it, then another and you realise you're in the middle of a flash mob. And the Woolies staff are not just Woolies staff. There's some members of the Soweto Gospel Choir with them.

It was something so warm, so comforting, so generous in spirit. It said "we all loved him, let's grieve together" and I had those weird laughing tears when the lady with her shopping basket thrust her fist in the air and sang "HEY WENA!" along with the choir and other shoppers and Woolies staff.

Here's the meaning of the lyrics you might not recognise, now you too can sing along :)

"Asimbonang 'umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph'ekhona (in the place where he is)
Laph'wafela khona (in the place where he died)
Hey wena (hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la' siyakhona (when will we arrive at our destination)"

Watch it here, and PLEASE do. I tried really hard to embed the videos in this post, but still doesn't work for me, sorry. *shakes fist at Blogger*

If Young Mandela Had Social Media

This little video was first uploaded to YouTube in July 2012 but I can't find out who's behind it. Let me know if you do, and I'll edit this post.

I first saw it on t.v. last week and I thought it was wonderful. And it'll make you smile too, even at it's darkest moments ("Nelson Mandela checks in at Robben Island").  Here's the link.

The Fake Signer

Ah me. This one had us laughing so much in our house and I KNOW you've all heard about it by now too. Just priceless.

Thamsanqa Jantjie was the man hired (by the SA Government) to stand on stage at the FNB Stadium Mandela Memorial in front of ... well, the friggin whole WORLD and sign for deaf viewers and crowd members as many World Leaders, friends and family of Mandela and other church leaders and dignitaries spoke.

Unfortunately, Thamsanqa (let's call him Thammy) doesn't actually know any sign language so he just flailed his hands around and hoped for the best.

First, there was understandably an outcry Worldwide. The ANC Government initially responded by saying that they didn't know who Thammy was or how he got there. Er ... excuse me? One of the biggest events in the history of the world ever - security issues much?

Then some research showed that this wasn't the first time Thammy's signing skills had been complained about. Er ... WTF?

THEN Thammy comes out of hiding and claims he had a Schizophrenic attack and was hallucinating the whole time. Oookaaay. So first we have a strange man on stage next to Obama and Desmund Tutu and the like, now it's an Hallucinating man?

Oh, it gets better. Government are still investigating meanwhile the press are doing it for them.

Thammy has a rather extensive criminal record folks! Oh yes, from house burglary to murder (yes, murder), our Thammy's been a busy chap in the criminal world, despite his alledged mental condition and his ability to get suited and security passed up and stand next to some of the worlds most famous and powerful people, signing complete gibberish.

To a family who are definitely anti the current ANC Government, any cock up they make (and there's many to choose from) brings smiles and laughter and this story certainly did.

The T.V.

It kind of sounds odd to say that one of the hightlights has been watching documentaries about Apartheid, so call me odd :)

Most of the local television channels for over a week now have been almost soley showing news stories, live footage and documentaries about Mandela. Seriously. I've had a hard time explaining to the kids where Dora and Peppa have been, they just returned to our screens a few days ago.

If you know me, you know I love to learn and the many, many Mandela documentaries and talking head shows I've seen this last week has opened my eyes to many things I didn't know. And I thought I knew the man's story. He was one of my heroes after all. Here's my favourite of new facts I've learned.

1. Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in the rural village of Mvezo. A small village on the banks of the Mbashe River, not far from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. He was named Rolihlahla Mandela. That's his name, not Nelson - ROLIHLAHLA! I've now learnt to pronounce it and in some kind of perfect synergy Rolihlahla literally means someone who's ‘pulling the branch of a tree’, or colloquially, a ‘troublemaker’. He was given the name Nelson by his White missionary school teacher.

Mvezo Village lady getting her shopping home.
2. His father died when he was nine and he was raised by his father's cousin, the then King of the Themba people. The King enrolled him in school and encouraged Mandela to learn. He also bought him his first suit.

3. He went on to study law and met his lifelong friend Oliver Tambo but when he was a young man, the King arranged a wife for him and his son, Justice. Neither man wanted to marry so they stole cattle to raise funds and ran away together to Joburg. They approached a Mine owner there for work but he refused them saying he'd received a letter from the King that simply said "SEND THE BOYS HOME NOW! SEND THE BOYS HOME!". Mandela stayed on in Joburg, but he contacted the King and apologised for defying and him and obtained the Kings consent to continue his studies there.

4. He continued his law studies and managed to persuade a white firm of Attorneys to employ him. During his time at university, he met many like minded souls who would go on to become friends and ANC supporters.

5. He was arrested, on a return to South Africa, on the (possibly, maybe, no one's admitted it yet) tip off of the C.I.A.

6. He delivered a THREE HOUR speech at his Rivonia trial, to an enraptured court and as the trial ended he arrived at court dressed like this ... :)

7. Whilst in prison he learnt Afrikaans, which is the language the first Dutch and German settlers invented, so he could talk to his mainly white afrikaaner guards in their own tongue. One of his famous quotes "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."

And finally ...

Maya Angelou

Another one of my heroes, imagine my joy when her face came on the screen one day last week and I heard her read her poem in tribute to Mandela.

Just magical. That woman does not waste a single word. Here's the text:
"His day is done.
Is done.
The news came on the wings of a wind, reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done.
The news, expected and still unwelcome, reached us in the United States, and suddenly our world became somber.
Our skies were leadened.
His day is done.
We see you, South African people standing speechless at the slamming of that final door through which no traveler returns.
Our spirits reach out to you Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer.
We think of you and your son of Africa, your father, your one more wonder of the world.
We send our souls to you as you reflect upon your David armed with a mere stone, facing down the mighty Goliath.
Your man of strength, Gideon, emerging triumphant.
Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid, scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism, unjustly imprisoned in the bloody maws of South African dungeons.
Would the man survive? Could the man survive?
His answer strengthened men and women around the world.
In the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in Chicago’s Loop, in New Orleans Mardi Gras, in New York City’s Times Square, we watched as the hope of Africa sprang through the prison’s doors.
His stupendous heart intact, his gargantuan will hale and hearty.
He had not been crippled by brutes, nor was his passion for the rights of human beings diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment.
Even here in America, we felt the cool, refreshing breeze of freedom.
When Nelson Mandela took the seat of Presidency in his country where formerly he was not even allowed to vote we were enlarged by tears of pride, as we saw Nelson Mandela’s former prison guards invited, courteously, by him to watch from the front rows his inauguration.
We saw him accept the world’s award in Norway with the grace and gratitude of the Solon in Ancient Roman Courts, and the confidence of African Chiefs from ancient royal stools.
No sun outlasts its sunset, but it will rise again and bring the dawn.
Yes, Mandela’s day is done, yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation, and we will respond generously to the cries of Blacks and Whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet.
He has offered us understanding.
We will not withhold forgiveness even from those who do not ask.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done, we confess it in tearful voices, yet we lift our own to say thank you.
Thank you our Gideon, thank you our David, our great courageous man.
We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all."
Here's the link if you want to hear the lady say it herself.

Ta-Ta Tata Madiba. Rest in peace Rolihlahla Mandela. We'll make sure your dreams are fulfilled.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika


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