In 1998 Mrs. Mandela visited Trinidad and Tobago as a guest of the Emancipation Support Committee and as expected she made a number of appearances at various functions.
While I was working, my mom telephoned me to say, she heard on the radio that Mrs. Mandella would be attending a luncheon to be hosted in her honor, just a couple of doors down, at the SWWTU Hall in Port of Spain. Armed with my camera, back then a 110 Kodak film camera, I headed to the venue very mindful of the fact that it was a paid event and I had no ticket. My intention was to stand outside and hopefully get a glimpse of Mrs. Mandela, (another paparazzi adventure).
Some may say as luck would have it, I say, it was God’s divine intervention. I met an ex co-worker at the gate of the venue. We exchanged greetings as it had been ages since we last saw each other. I told him of my mission, which was to get some photos of Mrs. Mandela. He asked if I wanted to see her “for true ” and I said of course and added with much emphasis, that is why I am here. He let out an infectious laugh and said ok lets go in. There was another gentleman at the gate and he sought to get a ticket from me. My friend quickly told him “she is with me” and the man stepped aside letting us through.
I followed quickly on the heals of my friend and was led into a medium size hall which was tastefully decorated and had standing room only. Guest were seated at their tables and were having lunch, while a presentation was being made to Mrs. Mandela. I could not believe my good fortune. So transfixed was I by seeing her that I just stood there. I reflected on how Mrs. Mandela fought for the freedom of Black South Africans and indeed Black people the world over. How she struggled on while her husband, Mr. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for over twenty (27) years. She had to raise her children alone and fight for the right to exist in the country of her birth.
I was jolted out of my thoughts by my friend asking me “well are you not going to take any pictures”? I moved timidly forward and stood in front of the stage ignoring the grumbles of the persons whose view I was blocking. I took my shots quickly and moved away, grateful for the opportunity. I then went back to my friend, thanking him endlessly. I could not stop grinning. It was really a once in a life time experience.
Thankfully, the photographs came out fairly decent for an armature back then and so I have them to share with you.