KwaZulu, Natal. My dad sat me on his lap, my brother on his side, and began an intriguing story “Let me tell you about a man called Nelson Mandela.”
See, that day my mind met Mandela, not a man, but an idea whose premise was freedom and humanity. So what does a 5 year old girl do with stories of heroes, struggles and looming triumphs that damn sound like fairytales, they imagine… I imagined that day.
Mandela’s freedom would become an image of a man who walked proud on the dusty street with his briefcase and shinning Crockett Jones that put a spring in his step as he greeted everyone at the taxi stop or charmed women selling fruit at the market who in turn laughed out loud clapping once in that African way having being infected by freedom’s ideals of a free South Africa, all on their way to work at the enemy’s garden, Eden infact, and you best believe the serpent was there, only this one spoke not in seductive tongues like that which eve fell for. Oh no, this one spat a different kind of tongue that must have been handed up from hell.
And humanity… Oh! She was a beautiful lady, a nurse, like my mom actually. She was extending her hand to a wounded man giving a smile and saying everything would be OK. But how could it? His house was burnt down, his daddy lynched and his sisters raped, now carrying the enemy’s child that would denounce its lineage immediately at birth for there was no way it could be linked to the white man in the main house, if anything, coloured was a better word. See, it takes the proximity of black to white in its blood as a burden to bear, not merely as a different colour group, but as a responsibility unspokenly bestowed upon him by his mother to right his father’s wrongs. The denials of the semi-white man!
I’m telling you a story about 1990, when I met freedom. She was my parents holding their fists high saying, “Africa is Free,” on the Sunday Mandela was released from prison. I, in my yellow dress, dust in my hair, was mesmerised by how quickly our street filled with people who came out with flags and photos of a man who had been but a concept in my mind that bore no resemblance to morgan freeman. Mandela was actually a chocolate-coloured man with a smile like sunrise and eyes like a bonfire and I liked him for he reminded me of one grandpa who sold beer at the corner house and I wondered if he was his brother.