“We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.” Nelson Mandela
To be in this part of the land, near Qunu, Mandela’s final resting place, as many were gathering from all over the world to come to Mandela’s funeral was indeed a blessing. The land itself with its majestic rolling hills, steeped in old traditions, reminds us that Madiba was a son of this soil, in every way. Now, buried in his ancestral homeland, which has been a part of my life these last three months, I feel very close to him, I prayed for his easy transition, knowing that his contribution to the world would be restored as an ancestor even though, I have some trepidation about the Nations response in the aftermath. There were celebrations all over South Africa celebrating Mandela’s life what a tribute! Presidents, Kings, Queens and Chiefs as well as humble local people. from all over the world traveled to congregate in our country to pay tribute to this great man. What a testimony to his character. He is loved, revered, respected as no other leader that I can recall.
Here though the mood was somber, grief was being expressed in a very different way. It’s here where many of his tribe (Thembu) reside, Where some of his family still live. It’s here where he went to school, barefoot. The child from rural Eastern Cape and one of the poorest places in South Africa, became a world leader, and it’s here where he is laid to rest.
It was when I briefly saw Graca weep after being so strong and dignified and being comforted by Winnie Mandela when his coffin was being lowered, that I, for the first time, really felt the loss. It is deeper than the loss of any relative, not more significant just deeper. He is personal to each of us, in death as he was in life. He transcended the barriers, the races, religions, colors and the masks between peoples. He said, “I cannot be free until you are all free” and that spoke to the true interconnectedness of a unified world. This humble and courageous man did not as I see it change South Africa, what he did was re -connect us with each other not just a nation, but also the world. After the huge unnatural separation, ( Apartheid means separate,) I see this as the single most humane and profound act anyone has done. he taught us to forgive to be fearless and to win with peace. That was what changed South Africa, finally we were able to be our true selves and connect.
In London when thousands gathered to welcome him after his release, he said, “How can I be afraid, when all I feel is love” And he has done it again, as his parting gift, connected us through love. Even the people who do not love him are united, HA! I am truly awed today.
Madiba’s life connected us in many different ways and that for me is why this man’s greatness is felt by so many, it is something we cannot live without, even if we chose to live an isolated life. After he was buried, it seemed his spirit was suddenly immense as though it was all encompassing, of us all.
I remember when Princess Diana died. It evoked the most remarkable reaction from the whole world. I was in the USA at the time and remembered feeling this strange familiarity with her in death which I never had when she was alive.
Worldwide Madiba’s passing has had an immense effect. His life and death commanded a very different response. I believe Diana’s life and death commanded sympathy, compassion, empathy, and when foul play gets thrown into the mix, it triggered our own heart breaks, heart aches and betrayals. Madiba’s passing evoked a celebration of his life and I sense will trigger a well of grief that runs deep amongst those who were here during apartheid and have not healed, it will reopen many wounds. Even some of the children of a post apartheid, they too will be triggered. It’s not about getting over it its about getting through it, Micheal Meade, one of my revered elders once said to me of any trauma or loss. It will take as long as it takes and how the healing happens is tantamount to how we heal. I believe that the true healing of some South African peoples was severely neglected, and that the Truth and Reconciliation committee whilst a profound gesture merely scraped the surface, leaving for some, scars that have not grown new skin. Grief will also reconnect us and as in all stages of grief, we must be aware of delayed response.
However we did re connect, Nation to Nation, worldwide in grief and in celebration. This last year a Nature year in the Dagara tradition, is not only about truth and authenticity, it is also about life, death and rebirth and the interconnectedness of all beings. So for the Father of our nation who had the grace to pass right at the end of a nature year to reunite the world yet again as a parting gesture, is, I believe the immensity of what this man is and was, and will continue to be as an ancestor.
This year freedom has been at the forefront of my year tracking my ancestors. Seeing where they once lived has helped me to understand so much more, and has been a healing balm indeed. I decided to make a commitment to following Madiba’s legacy. Freedom, One child at a time, and as I have spent time in remote and rural Eastern Cape where Madiba was born, where some of the poorest villages struggle daily for food ,water and education, I am inspired by his legacy and a commitment to freedom of our children. There is no going back.
I close the year thanking Madiba for reuniting and connecting us once again. I see it as a beacon, his light, reminds me that now it’s time for the re birth of this Nation, in order for us to be truly free. That courage is working and believing in something bigger than ourselves.
I wish you all a beautiful season, remember those who are alone and maybe check in with a stranger. How fortunate we are to have Nelson Mandela as an ancestor, his work lives on and on. And how fortunate are we to have Graca Machel as an ally to continue Madiba’s legacy and his wishes to work with our children.
Unified we will get through this.
AHH! Dhalibhunga, !Camagu.
May all worlds bless and protect you always
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela