It is hard to explain to my international readers how we South Africans feel about the death of Nelson Mandela without our sentiments getting tangled with his legend.
I feel like I should capitalise the ‘his’, because Tata is something of a deity to our nation, “a supernatural being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred.”
In the next 24 hours more text will be churned out about the life and times of Nelson Mandela than has ever been created about a single human being in such a short period of time. I’m not going to add to that. Well, not overly.
I wish I could have met Madiba in person.
Not as one of the endless parade of celebrities and politicians that popped into his home in Houghton for a cheesy picture on their pitstop tours to South Africa, his old eyes uncomprehending as they posed, fodder for their empty ‘I met Nelson Mandela’ stories.
I wish I could have met him in his early 20s, when that flame was sparking inside a young political activist. When he was just a man. An impulsive hooligan. Beautiful in the fierceness of his fight against the atrocity of apartheid. To have a conversation with Nelson the person, not the fairytale.
Can you imagine what it would have been like, to trade ideas – to bump cerebellums – with the bright-eyed, even-brighter mind of a 20-something Mandela? While dunking a buttermilk rusk in a mug of coffee? Oh, man.
Today South Africa mourns the death of a legend. I mourn that young Nelson Mandela.
Too many people are saying: “We will never see his like again.” I hope that hidden among the population of our country’s young people is another like him. Like a comet, circling back in Earth’s history to once more blaze in our skies, shake up the world. We need something to believe in.
|Nelson Mandela poster by Dave Sherwood-Adcock|