R.I.P Madiba – my tribute, my thank you


Nelson Mandela. Madiba –  as he was fondly known.

Legend. Leader.

Today marks a special day in history as the world reflects on Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) and the profound impact he had on the entire human population. And I take this moment, with everybody else, to think and reflect on how he shaped my own life.

I am from South Africa. I was born when Mandela had already spent 6 years in prison. I left South Africa, as an expat, when he was the President in Office. I was born into a world of Apartheid, which I had nothing to do with….. and I lived through the transformation and unification period that South Africa underwent with his release. When I left the country in 1998 to join my husband on his career path, South Africans were living the dream of a post-apartheid era where the Rainbow Nation joined hands in truth and reconciliation in an unique feeling of unity that Mandela orchestrated at the time. None of the scenarios played out which so many feared in anticipation of this event. Solely contributed to his great leadership and strength of character, wisdom and compassion. I was proud of what our people were able to achieve under his leadership. Like a child receives the rewards of good parenting, us as South Africans received the rewards of being taught phenomenal citizenship and forgiveness as character traits, amongst so many other things, while we were in his house, under his roof, being brought up with Mandela as our country’s parent – our President.

What a Remarkable Reconciliator and Remediator.

When he became the President, I was 27 years old. The time he spent in jail. To me that would mean wiping out my entire life at that point and try to compare that to being confined to a small cell for that entire period, working on one thing and one thing only – Freedom. Something I received as a birthright. By then I had achieved so much already – and yet not understanding nearly enough of what was going on behind my back, from even before I was born. Only later in life I realized that I would wear that tag around my neck wherever I went in the world … being asked about it  and certainly many time beings judged as a white, Afrikaans person who lived through the oppression era that the world was pointing fingers at. Simply for being born white. As he was fighting the struggle for being born black. Worlds apart in the same country. That is not what I choose to dwell on today.

The amazing thing is that Mandela meant so many things to so many people in this world. Irrespective of color, irrespective of race. Whether you are a South African or not, whether you lived there or not, whether he was your President or not, whether you understood fully the depth of the cause he fought or not, whether you were part of that system or not… Every person has his own impressions, his own lessons learnt from Mandela’s life , his leading example and his incredibly inspirational integrity that will continue to inspire generations to come.

Today we see non-stop images of his life as every channel pull up their archives. But there are also works of art everywhere in commemoration – some of which you might not get to see on TV. My personal favorite is this sculpture that consist of 50 ten metre high laser cut steel plates set into this particular landscape in South Africa.


It is done by the sculptor Marco Cianfanelli, of Johannesburg, and it was done representing the 50 year anniversary of when and where Mandela was captured and arrested in 1962.

Besides the brilliance in the sculpture itself, it represents another lesson that I have learnt in life ..not from Mandela himself, but from these steel plates representing the  image of Nelson Mandela.

Sometimes you are so close to a situation that you fail to see what it is all about.


You have to step back to get the picture.

And sometimes when you stand back, and you still look from the wrong angle –  you will still not get the essence of what it is about – it will remain a steel structure, 50 steel poles standing on its own or a skewed picture from your own point of view, not fully in perspective.

But when you get the right distance and the right angle from a situation, a setting or a scenario …. and you look again……only then you stand in awe of what you have been missing and only then you see the beauty and the brilliance of the image that the sculptor had in mind when he created it. Only then you get the picture and you understand what the process was all about and what the creator of that idea (or ideology) saw long before it even  became a reality.


And in my own life…. I have to continue to step back and look at things from the right angle and the right distance to get perspective. Even today still.

Today will start a 10 day period of mourning in South Africa. It will be over on December, 16th – my birthday and a public holiday in South Africa – Reconciliation Day.

But for the rest of my life, the lessons and the inspiration we could draw from his life will live on in my heart and in so many others who were inspired by him and his unthinkable capability to forgive and move forward.

The world mourns his passing but rejoice the presence and impact he had on every South African and beyond its borders.

Thank you Madiba for what you did for our country, what you taught me and what your life and legacy continues to teach the world today.

I honor you today in this post. May God bless your wife and your family, in mourning alongside the Nation.





1 Response to R.I.P Madiba – my tribute, my thank you

  • Audrey Petersen says:

    So well said Ilze, every word so true. Lots of love xxx

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