Mahatma is a Hindi word meaning Great Soul or in secular terms this word could mean Great Conscience. The word is really a title bestowed by the people out of respect.
Mahatma Mandela? I think so. He set his people free as did Moses, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr before him. He spoke the words of peace, truth and reconciliation and the actions of his life reflected his words. It was partly because he suffered that he was able to speak to the dreams of suffering people.
I was photographing the picture below when I heard the news of his passing.
This rare phenomena pictured above, is a horizontal rainbow. The scientific name is a Fire Rainbow or circumhorizontal arc. It appeared around New Zealand on the afternoon of Nelson Mandela’s death. I was so happy for him as he has now found a new form of freedom.
To me, the photo above was like his spirit was traveling around the world on a quantum rainbow flight. The Rainbow People was how Nelson Mandela described the many different kinds of people in South Africa.
The country of my birth New Zealand was once painfully divided on the arrival of the all-white Springbok rugby team from South Africa. Our usually friendly neighbour Australia had banned the Springbok plane from landing in their country to refuel thereby forcing a redirect via Hawaii to NZ.
The Springbok team was traditionally our best rival in the sport called rugby. Nationwide violent protests erupted in 200 locations from a culturally quiet people in support of banning rugby teams from a nation with institutionalized racism. Previously to this watershed moment in New Zealand history we had been sending all-white teams to South Africa despite our usual national and international teams including the sporting talents of the Maori and Polynesian peoples. These protests lasted for 56 days in 1981 and included a low-flying Cessna 172 dropping flour bombs over the Eden Park rugby pitch during the final match. The game continued despite these bombings as you can see in the photos below.
Anti-apartheid demonstrations in New Zealand during the Springbok rugby tour, 1981.
These protests had been gathering steam since 1960 when 150,000 New Zealanders signed a petition supporting a policy of “No Maoris, No Tour” prior to the NZ ruby team, the All Blacks becoming an all-white team to tour South Africa. The name All Blacks refers to the colour of the team uniform not to the team members.
The result of the 1981 protests, which included 1500 charges against protesters, was that there was no official sporting contact between New Zealand and South Africa until the 1990’s when apartheid was abolished. Like most people in this world, Kiwis believe strongly in everyone having a sporting chance.
At the clubs of my youth we used to dance and sing the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela‘ which was sung by The Specials and written by Jerry Dammers. The youth of the entire world did the same.
Many many years later in Australia I took the morning off work and watched the TV for hours on the day Mandela was released from prison. I am sure many of you remember that moment too.
Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in 1964 on Robben island, an island-prison which was a former leper-colony. He was transferred to two more prisons before his release 1990; a total of 27 years spent as a prisoner.
It used to be that in South Africa opportunities were only available based on the colour of one’s skin instead of by education and merit. Selective education was one of the many things that Nelson Mandela sought to change and succeeded in doing so.
Free Nelson Mandela. Free.
His Day is Done – written and spoken by Maya Angelou in Tribute to Nelson Mandela
Katy Perry was recently accused of cultural appropriation when she performed as a Geisha at the 2013 American Music Awards. Her show was a stunning and very beautiful piece of stage craft although it did mix up traditional Chinese choreography with Japanese movement and iconography. It was more Pan-Asian than Japanese. I was entertained, not offended but the point is not my own reaction but how did the Japanese people feel? Only they can answer that question. You can view this video here and make up your own mind.
Cultural Appropriation as defined by Wikipedia is..
the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.
I take this to mean cultural beliefs or iconography taken out of context or without understanding the real significance to the originators and using them for other purposes than what they were intended for. Not always, but often, this shows the ignorance of the appropriators and causes offense to the appropriatee.
Having consulted two Indian friends, Sandeep and Sachin, who happen to be Hindu, I am confident that evoking the word Mahatma in this context is appropriate. Since I wrote this my friends have informed me that Nelson Mandela is already being spoken of within the Indian community as the Mahatma of South Africa. Personally I feel that this word can apply on a world wide scale. You may of course disagree with me entirely.
Tribute via World Methodist Council and the Bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa.
WORLD METHODIST COUNCIL REMEMBERS NELSON MANDELA
Former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela died Thursday, 6 December from complications related to a recurring lung infection. He was 95.
The World Methodist Council remembers Mandela as a person who fought for dignity and equality for all, not through violent means, but instead through the moral authority that comes when the cause of justice is on one’s side. The lives that were touched by Mandiba’s words and deeds are impossible to count, but his story will live on for generations to come as an example of how to lead in the face of oppression.
“Mandela brought hope for those strangulated by poverty and hunger; transformed the nightmares of those trapped in a hopeless-ness and despair into dreams of a better future and sunshine, dignity and assurance to many a young person caught up in waves of angst about the future of South Africa. He stood as the collective conscience of a people and achieved what many, in their entire lifetime thought impossible. He will stand out in history as a beacon of light, a lodestar inspiring many generations to come,” stated World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams.
A life-long Methodist, Mandela was a man of faith, principle, hope and inspiration. The leader of a movement and the father of a nation, Mandela’s shadow stretches forward as a reminder to each of us of a better way.
“As a Church, we have been privileged to be associated with Madiba since the early days of his life when he was educated, first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist educational institutions in the Eastern Cape, both of which were important influences on his life.
“Madiba remained a committed Methodist throughout his life. The thousands of accolades from every walk of life that he received included the World Methodist Peace Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed by the worldwide Methodist family,” said Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in a statement.
Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president by a near two-thirds margin in 1994, after spending 27 years in prison for his role as a leader in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. He served as president for five years, until retiring in 1999.
In 2000, the World Methodist Council awarded Mandela the World Methodist Peace Award for his single-minded commitment to peace and reconciliation, and for staying true to his vision of a free and democratic South Africa. He received many other accolades throughout his career, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
“We were privileged to be present with Nelson Mandela as he received the World Methodist Council Peace Award in a special ceremony in Cape Town. Gracious and strong as always we celebrated his victory and his faithfulness for peace.
That evening when we walked outside to his car people gathered to see their President. Some children stood on the side of the street. He lowered his glass and motioned for the children to come to him. He embraced them and expressed his love for them. He is ‘Mabida’ to all his people and indeed the Father of his country,” remembered H. Eddie Fox, Director of World Methodist Evangelism.
During his time in office Mandela pushed for free and democratic elections, and after three years of talks a new interim constitution was agreed upon and free democratic elections were held. He created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to push for national reconciliation and bringing parity to black and white communities. After his retirement in 1999, he focused on charity and aid work, particularly HIV/AIDS activism.
In a statement released by the Methodist Church in Great Britain, The Revd Ruth Gee, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “Nelson Mandela is regarded as one of the fathers of Africa. His persistent way of standing up for justice has inspired Africans and the world at large. As a leader, one of his most impressive attributes was his emphasis on peace and reconciliation in the post-apartheid regime.
Mandela’s legacy is one of struggle and triumph, of steadfast dedication and a rejection of violence. In the coming days Mandiba’s life will be celebrated, but the reach and scope of his influence is still unfolding.
“As we reflect on his passing and try to make sense of his death, we are reminded that people like Madiba do not die rather they continue to live in the hearts and minds of people ever inspiring them to espouse the noble virtues and rare devotion that he embodied and continue that for which he dedicated his life,” added General Secretary Abrahams.
The World Methodist Council joins with the rest of the world in remembering the life and celebrating the legacy of Nelson Mandela.