Mandela in Memoriam or How Should We Remember Him?

In 2005, I went to South Africa for a three week visit. It was amazing. I remember beautiful vistas of mountains and penguins, Freshly ground’s hit, pinstriped crowds on busy Jo’Burg streets, sweaty DJ sets at “Mama Africa Club” in Cape Town, ANC songs sung in a minivan somewhere on the Eastern Cape, touring the Apartheid museum with chills down my spine and braii moments with plenty of meat and laughter.

I also remember getting a text message from the first of my close friends to have a baby. “Boy has arrived! Mother and child are both healthy!” In my joy, I was looking for something to buy and soon found the perfect gift. A onesie with pink stripes and a stylized photo of Mandela. It was gift wrapped and delivered to the newborn child.

In the weeks since Nelson “Madiba” Mandela’s passing the discussion on how to remember Mandela. As a young lawyer? A son of a traditional leader? A terrorist? A prisoner? A father and husband? A world leader? A pacifist? A nice guy? The best guy ever?

mandela onesie

That I think of “Madiba” as a icon on a kid’s outfit, I find both horrible and hopeful. Horrible as it reduces a revolutionary to a commercial item, but also hopeful as his leadership – immortalised by a calm smile on an ageing face – in a small way will be remembered by the next generation across the globe. 

Photo borrowed from The Tuesday Photo.

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