Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

His Day is Done-Dr. Maya Angelou

 

Over the weekend, we played a travel game where you picked a letter of the alphabet and named any person who’s (first or last) name started with that letter.  We were on the letter M for a long time and I said, “Maya Angelou“.  None of the people I was playing with had heard of her, which didn’t totally surprise me since they were from  The Czech Republic, Sweden, and Germany.  The one girl from The Czech Republic knew plenty of poets, authors, and painters I didn’t know off the top of my head…so, no shade.  I still thought I would take the occasion to share not only her poetry and voice but more specifically this poem, which memorializes Nelson Mandela.


29January2014-Joburg and SOWETO

Today was our day to see a bit of Joburg-FNB staduim, the Apartheid Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s house in SOWETO.

FNB Stadium-It was a point of interest because this is where the main memorial service for Nelson Mandela was held. The one where President Obama spoke, the fake interpreter of sign-language, where it was a full-on downpour. It was also one of the stadiums used when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup. We were not allowed to go inside the stadium, only take pictures on the outside. We were told that we could not go in because Bruce is playing tomorrow night. One member of our group asked if this was a South African performer and the security guard said, “No, Bruce Springstein.” I thanked him for the clarification and told him that I wish I was on a first-name basis with The Boss, like he is. We took several group pictures outside, which we are getting good at assuming the position.

Next was the Apartheid Museum. *deep breath* Where to start? They did have a temporary exhibit about the life of Nelson Mandela, which was very good. Some other exhibits were under construction and so we could not see them. But the main museum was really moving (doesn’t seem like a strong enough word). When you purchase your ticket, it is issued with either a “white” or “non-white” status; my ticket designated me as non-white. It is with this status that you enter the museum and each entry is different with information applying to that group of people. I thought the designation might carry through the whole museum, like in the Holocaust museum in D.C. The museum did a good job taking visitors the history of South Africa. There was a movie made that reminded me of Birth of a Nation. They were made about the same time ad both of them served as propaganda for the white ruling class keeping power over other racial groups. The museum had scenes from this movie playing on a loop, the imagery was disturbing. The next scene that I had a visceral reaction to was a room full of nooses. These were hanging from the ceiling and there were lots of them. They symbolized the actual nooses used to hang political prisoners. This portion of the exhibit also talked about the prisoners who died in police custody. The official line was that a lost of these prisoners committed suicide while in jail, but evidence points to the police killing them. In a movie talking about the student uprising, one of the activist talked about his time in police custody. He was tortured and the police often told him, “We can kill you at any time and just say that you hung yourseld.” The bravery of student activist is amazing to me. Oh, and when I say “student activist”, I am not talking about college students. No, these students were ages 8-18. Many of them were arrested, tourtured, killed, disappeared, or fled the country.

Speaking of student activists, before we went to Mandela’s house we visited Hector Peterson Square. Hector Peterson was a student killed by police and became famous because of a picture taken of another student carrying his body with a female student walking next to him. The boy carrying his body disappeared after this incident and was never heard from again. It is suspected that he was picked up by the police and killed. The female in the picture is still alive and is an executive of the museum there in the square that commemorates the event. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go through the museum. The reason for the student uprising in 1976 was the government’s announcement that school would be taught in Afrikaans. The students widely protested this move by the government because it would be detrimental to their education. Afrikaans was not a language that many of the students knew and there was a shortage of teachers who could teach in Afrikaans, thus the students protested. The police were tipped off about the students protesting this day and were waiting for them as they walked toward Orlando Stadium. The police had their dogs with them (think Alabama and Bull Connor). As the dogs attacked the students they fought back with stones against the dogs, since the dogs are police officers (many of them out-ranking the black police officers), the police opened live fire on the students.

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Where we were in SOWETO was a crossroads for the freedom fight in South Africa. Just on the other side of Hector Peterson square was the church where Desmond Tutu starting preaching, and then close by was Nelson Mandela’s house.

Nelson Mandela’s house reminded me of Lincoln’s small log cabin boyhood home in Kentucky. It is located in the SOWETO township and is a small township home. When we drove up to the home I was impressed with the businesses surrounding it. There were a couple of resteraunts, some shops, and lots of street vendors (street performers too). Everything was small, small bedrooms, small bathroom, and small cooking area. The house itself is not set-up like a lot of historical sites, where it is full of actual or replica furniture because if it was visitors could not easily walk through the house. The house is full of memorabilia though. There are plaques and declarations of support for Nelson and Winnie Mandela. It was interesting to take note of the places on display such as: Morehouse College, the State of Michagan, the City of Newark just to name a few. I’m really glad that SCSU made us read A Long Walk to Freedom before coming to South Africa. When there is so much to take in when you are visiting a country for the first time, the trip is more meaningful when you’re not getting all of this historic information for the first time.


Soweto Gospel Choir’s Tribute to Mandela

The Soweto Gospel Choir and Woolworth’s teamed up to pay a beautiful tribute to Mandela.

Here is the English translation of the song:

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Chorus….

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

Chorus….

Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonanga
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination)


A step closer

Tickets have been booked! Today, I got an email notifying me that my reservations had been made for South Africa! I need to pick my seats on the plane and then I’m set. One step closer to leaving for the semester abroad. We are flying out of Minneapolis and connecting to our international flight at Dulles Airport in D.C. From there we fly into Joburg which is a 14 hour flight. I’m really excited because right now we are scheduled to spend a day in Joburg. Hopefully, all of our flights stay on schedule so we can keep the day of sight-seeing. I know previous groups have visited Soweto, Mandela‘s house, and other historical sites.

Before I left St. Cloud for winter break, I got a thick envelope from NMMU. It had my acceptance letter from the university, information about health insurance and other items that SCSU had already taken care of for us, and a thick orientation book for the university. Our first weekend in country we will gather with all of the other study abroad students at   I think this is such a great idea because we can meet other students before we are on-campus.  All of the SCSU students (other than me) are going to be enrolled in classes at NMMU; it’ll be interesting to see if there are any students from other schools doing internships this semester.

There are still some unknowns. Unknowns like: where will I live? Who am I going to be working with or for? You know little things like that.

But I am excited about the unknowns. They are all part of the discovery process!


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