Thursday, 12 December 2013

My Father, Madiba

We often underestimate the importance of father figures in our lives and the impact they have on our personal and social development. Long gone are the days where patriarchs were solely seen as providers and protectors, with little to no involvement in their child's emotional and psychological well-being. These days, a father figure has just as much responsibility in nurturing and shaping the lives of their children as mothers do, especially when it comes to building one's values and self-esteem. While each father-child relationship differs from son to daughter, the lessons we learn along the way are exactly the same. It's the paternal legacy we carry that makes us part of who we are and part of what we hope to become. 

As the dark cloud lifts back into the sky, more and more children of Mzanzi are coming to terms with the sudden loss of our nation's most celebrated father. Although Tata Madiba's death wasn't entirely unexpected, news of his passing still came as a shock to many, bringing forth a sense of global mourning that goes beyond South Africa. Tributes. Memorial services. Decorative shrines. When an international parent of peace as significant as Mandela is taken away from us, it's our duty to honour his life in the most respectful way possible; by resonating his teachings in our own lives and future lives of generations to come. Love, forgiveness, tolerance and equality. This is what he stood for. The freedom to be yourself  regardless of your political and cultural background. To end hatred and discrimination against others based on race, gender and religion.

While I have never been one to wax lyrical about anything pious, what Madiba did for this country - and subsequently the world - was most definitely the work of God. Flicking through the river of radio stations broadcasting hour-long specials covering the life that he lived, I came across a DJ who compared Nelson Mandela to Jesus Christ. I can only imagine how this must have offended the Christian minority tuning in at the time, but to be completely honest, I couldn't think of a better contrast. While he may not have been able to walk on water, Madiba pioneered the art of turning the other cheek. He lived his life an example of love and forgiveness, teaching his followers to let go of the hurt from the past and move forward towards the light of a brighter future. Just like Jesus, Madiba sacrificed his life for the greater good of his people when he could have easily resented the system that locked him away for all those years. Was Madiba South Africa's own personal saviour or was he just an angel on earth disguised as a humble human being? 

The first thing I thought about on Friday morning as the Twitterverse spun out of control about Mandela's death was my best friend Shabumi. My soul sister from another mister who was smiles away in a foreign country. I thought about how we probably would not have been able to be friends if Mandela hadn't fought for the change this country so desperately needed. Fortunately I came from a fairly liberal family where the colour of one's skin didn't really matter providing you believed in some kind of God and went to church at least twice a week. Coming from a co-ed mixed race primary school made me ignorant to most things in life including the African struggle for equality which is why I could not understand the reactions of my peers when I decided to integrate Shabumi into my circle of friends.

"We can't sit with her. She's black!" This was actually the reaction they had. Quote unquote. I was so pissed off at their intolerance and racism that I decided to abandon the White Power Bill Gang in exchange for a more progressive duo of awesomeness. What blossomed was a lifetime friendship full of misdemeanours and exciting adventures. A cultural mash up between traditional Zulu and Portuguese flavours. I taught her about Fado's, festa's and espetada while Shab's taught me everything you had to know about umngqusho, Ella Fitzgerald and hair extensions. If it weren't for Shabumi, I'd still believe that the members of Destiny's Child had their own hair.

I thank Madiba for my own biological father, who echoed Tata's open mind about my life choices and the people I brought into my life. For accepting me the way I am. For teaching us both to tolerate one another and our indifference towards each other. I thank him for teaching us that good things are totally worth the struggle. To fight for what you believe in without compromising the beliefs of others. To not judge by the cover but instead browse through the pages of diversity before making an informed decision. To live and not exist.

Whether spiritual or biological in nature, the role of any parent is to want what's best for your child whether it's through tough love or lending a helping hand. To protect them against the harshness of the world through wisdom at the same time allowing them the confidence and freedom to explore and make their own mistakes based on the choices that so many youngsters take for granted. His role is to nurture and encourage our interests, to motivate beyond our dreams, to teach us respect for one another as well as respect for ourselves. These are the lessons Mandela taught us along his long, long walk to freedom and the best way to honour such an incredibly inspirational man is to walk with the same grace and dignity that he did through our own personal struggles.

Hamba Kahle, Tata Madiba. You will always be my father and my hero.  

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