Nelson Mandela has always believed in the youth as the rock on which the future is built. He has promoted education as a key instrument of liberation.
So much of his post-1999 charitable work was directed at the needs of young people in South Africa and around the world – primarily through his legacy organisations the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
After his release from prison in 1990 he had a particular affinity for children and youth, enjoying their company and finding it easy to engage them with disarming humour and spontaneous delight.
The film, made from selected key moments in the life of Mr Mandela, is a collaboration between the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Umlando Wezithombe Publishing.
The availability of this film follows the production of eight comic books and a graphic novel about Mr Mandela. It covers his life from his childhood in the Eastern Cape through to his political activism, imprisonment and later his inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected President.
“The system of apartheid robbed many children of their right to a decent education and of the joy of reading. This joy is one that I have treasured all my life, and it is one I wish for all South Africans.”
Adapted by celebrated South African writer Chris van Wyk and illustrated by Paddy Bouma, the book was launched by his great-grandson Ziyanda Manaway to mark International Literacy Week.
“Our granddad believes that education and reading are two of the most important things for children,” he said at the launch. He also read out a message from Mr Mandela which said: “The system of apartheid robbed many children of their right to a decent education and of the joy of reading. This joy is one that I have treasured all my life, and it is one I wish for all South Africans.”
Publishers MacMillan released the book in all 11 official South African languages as well as in Portuguese and American English.
Nelson Mandela is particularly loved by children. His habit of singing to them during visits to schools, hospitals and other institutions certainly touched their hearts and brought more of a twinkle to his heart.
In the early years after his release, he would often sing his own version of the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to small children. Over time, this became something of a tradition, and children would join in with gusto and enthusiasm whenever he initiated the song.
“I admire young people who are concerned with the affairs of their community and nation, perhaps because I also became involved in struggle whilst I was still at school. With such youth we can be sure that the ideals we celebrate today will never be extinguished. Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom. ”
After the 1976 Soweto Uprising Robben Island and other prisons in South Africa swelled with new prisoners – young people who had taken part in this watershed period in the country’s history. The Soweto generation who had faced down the armed police of the apartheid regime had been killed, driven into exile or captured and jailed. These militant young people brought with them news that the opposition to apartheid that the regime had crushed since the Mandela generation had risen. Hope was at hand. Anti-apartheid forces were again on the march. The older prisoners were inspired.
Nelson Mandela was one of the founding members of the African National Congress Youth League. In fact he only joined the ANC when the Youth League was founded in 1944. Here he talks about the founding of the organisation and, at the same time, reveals his frankness about his own short-comings: in this case how nervous he was about engaging in political discussions and meetings.
Nelson Mandela is renowned for his love of children and young people and often speaks of how important they are to the future of any country and the world as a whole. Here he relates an incident that occurred soon after his release from prison as he was en route from Canada to Ireland. In Canada’s Goose Bay he had a few minutes at the airport between flights and decided to go and talk to a group of young people. It turned out that they were members of Canada’s Inuit community and Mr Mandela is unashamed about his ignorance of their culture.
As this story reveals, honour is very important to Nelson Mandela. He was not well on a trip to London and put off meeting a group of youngsters waiting outside his hotel. He was forced to bow to their demands, particularly since he had promised to give them autographs. The youngsters waited for hours in the rain for his return from a visit to the British Prime Minister. They played to his honourable side and they got what they wanted.
Photographer — Ardon Bar-Hama
Photographer — Matthew Willman
Photographer — Debbie Yazbek
Photographer — Benny Gool
Animation — Umlando WeZithombe
Research & Curation — Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory Staff