As you’ve undoubtedly already heard, Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday at the age of 95. The news was not unexpected, but nonetheless is deeply sad for the entire world.
There are not many real heroes in politics, but almost everyone – from pious religious leaders to despicable tyrants alike – universally agrees that Nelson Mandela was one of them. I was a child during the apartheid era, but even though I lived a world away from it I remember very vividly the intense political activism against it in my country (I believe the Canada’s “soft power” role in the international effort to free Nelson Mandela and bring down apartheid was one of our finer moments as a nation) being asked on Sundays in church to pray for Nelson Mandela’s release and a peaceful end to the apartheid era.
Of course the reality of apartheid and the remarkable, non-violent transformation of South Africa’s political system following Nelson Mandela’s release is much, much more intensely personal to those who lived there and whose lives were directly touched by it.
Many South African artists – both black and white – were engaged in the struggle against apartheid in ways both small and large. One of those politically active South African artists during apartheid’s final years was Gary friedman, who created the Punch and Judy inspired Puppets Against Apartheid project. Gary has published a lovely tribute to Nelson Mandela on his blog today and included this clip of himself with a puppet interviewing Nelson Mandela during South Africa’s first free elections in 1994:
Also mourning for “Madiba” (Mandela’s tribal name) are the cast and crew of ZA News, whomade their Mandela puppet a staple of their popular Spitting Image-esque South African TV series:
Hamba Kahle Madiba…and thank you.