Experience Madiba’s Legacy in Historical Cape Town
In one of my visits to South Africa, I took a trip down a politically inspired memory lane in Cape Town. While I was exploring the streets, Nelson Mandela’s face greeted me from unexpected places. From street vendors selling Andi Warhol-inspired coasters with the former President’s face on, to large-scale graffiti on more than one building, the people of Cape Town clearly adore this man. After speaking to some locals I was persuaded to go on an informal ‘Madiba Tour’ that included a few of the places where major events involving Mandela took place.
The father of a colorful nation
Everybody in the world knows the face of Nelson Mandela, and can only contemplate the suffering he experienced, and the iron will that got him through it. Most of the world took note of him when he became known as a rebel and a fighter against ‘apartheid’. They were jubilant when he was released after being imprisoned for 27 years, and devastated when he was laid to rest in 2013. Madiba is a father to his nation and a hero to millions of people across the globe. Although it is not possible to meet the great man anymore, it is possible to visit some of the historical places that are connected with his life story, one of the greatest tales on earth.
City Hall – Darling Street
Very near one of the biggest street art portraits of Madiba there is an imposing Edwardian building built by the British in 1905 during the colonial rule. The building is now the Cape Town City Hall. This was where Mandela gave his first speech after being released from prison in 1990. Thousands of supporters waited for the freedom fighter to appear on the small balcony below the clock tower where his voice was heard in public for the first time in nearly thirty years.
Parliament – Parliament Street
Nearby the little balcony where the very first address was made I found the Parliament buildings of South Africa, where Mandela made many speeches after he became the president of the country. I was surprised to find that it is free to tour the Parliament buildings, a far cry from the £25 it costs to tour the Houses of Parliament in London…
St George’s Cathedral Crypt – cnr. Wale and Victoria Streets
Across the road from the Parliament buildings I visited what is known as ‘the people’s cathedral’ – St George’s Cathedral. It was explained to me that it is called that because it played a significant role in the struggle against the regime of ‘apartheid’. There is a stirring photographic exhibition of 13 September 1989, a historic day in which over 30,000 individuals of all races marches through the city streets to call for the end of apartheid. Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has close ties to the cathedral. Despite being retired Archbishop Tutu sometimes conducts Friday morning services that are open to public attendance.
Nobel Square – V&A Waterfront
Nobel Square is an area created to celebrate the four South African Nobel Peace Prize winners: Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Albert Luthuli. The nearly life-size statues of the four are often used in photos with the harbour and the picturesque mountains in the background. To me the statues looked a bit like Easter egg figurines, pleasantly different to the run of the mill realistic sculptures of famous people usually created. For example the sculptures at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London.
Also at the V&A Waterfront is the port from where ferries transport visitors to Robben Island. For centuries the island was home to convicts, political prisoners and lepers. This is also where Madiba was imprisoned for 18 years of his life. The 12 kilometre journey over the ocean was choppy and scary at times, some people even got seasick. Since I have my sea-legs, I could enjoy the sunfish, seals and dolphins in the bay. My cheerfulness soon gave way to melancholy when I stood in the very cell that the freedom fighter called home for all those years. I saw the lime quarry where he performed backbreaking labour and Table Mountain in the distance, a far-away symbol of freedom. Suddenly I understood exactly why Madiba is revered.