Thursday night saw me standing in a two-hour line to go to a party I just “had” to be at and someone randomly mentioned; they are saying Mandela has died. I went on with my life, still waiting in line. How many times in the last few months have I not heard those same words, those same debates and even in July I was not brave enough to say how I felt, that I was of the sentiment that in 2013 someone, anyone should say “Free Nelson Mandela”.
Once in the club, an announcement came from the DJ. “Can I please ask everyone to raise peace signs to the sky, we’ve just received news that Nelson Mandela has died”. I stood there and watched how everyone raised their peace signs, but my arm remained stuck to my side”. The D J then played That’s what friends are for and life continued.
When I got home, I spent two hours over a toilet bowel, puking out who knows what feeling (this was not due to alcohol intake, I had picked up a bug from my little brother) and woke the next day feeling terrible. While driving all talk was about Mandela on the radio, his death his life, his struggle. In between feeling physically sick and overwhelmed, I had not shed a tear.
At work, it was all the buzz. One everyone’s lips was Mandela and all I could do was throw-up and battle to feel human. Eventually I threw in the towel and asked to leave work. I came home and slept.
So yes my life went on, and now I am here, still woozy and silent. I can’t explain why I am too deeply saddened to verbalize what I feel. A month ago when asked in an interview who my icon was I said “ The most obvious answer would be Nelson Mandela, but I think that Mandela is a representative of a sentiment that we aspire to, so I think it’s fair to say that the sentiment he represents is my icon”.
The face of freedom is what he has become to South Africans, but there are many faces of freedom in South Africa, who have died, are not mentioned or scarcely documented. I’ve always felt that in this land, the struggle is not so much for freedom, but in actuality it is between what we choose to embrace as ideals. Are we the Nelson Mandela figure, the one aspiring for peace, the one with the sense of humour, a sense of interconnectedness, a wisdom that permeates to an understanding that we should not fight each other, but rather embrace . Are we the opposite? The image of the system that is apartheid, filled with hatred, fear and greed. Judging rather than understanding , oppressing rather that uplifting one another?
What are we really as South Africans? Who are we? These are the questions I grapple with every day when I encounter personalities on either side of these spectrums. The death of Mandela does not mark the end of what he represents. Perhaps with his death, it may feel as it has, a sense of what he represents has left us, but that is not true, perhaps that is why I am in a limbo state of mourning. I feel that those ideals will live on if we choose it, matter of fact it was present before a face was ascribed to it.
My father says when Mandela was released from prison he was present and I was hoisted on his shoulders amoung the crowd at the Grand Parade in Cape Town. That’s the closest I got to meeting him/ seeing him and knowing him and that is actually okay with me. I know that his legacy and sentiments are present in me regardless, because it’s in me, it lies at the core of my soul and who I am. My hope is that South African’s don’t forget that freedom and equality was bred because it was part of the collective conscience, that is was every soul populating our land wanted. That is what won, freedom won because we chose it, and may it continue to be that way. May equality soon follow.
RIP Nelson Mandela, long live South Africa.