Seeing Mr. Mandela in the flesh

For months I have been trying to get back to writing, it seems I need better time management skills as my mother so cheekily put it or I just need more time in the day. I lean on the side of the latter. Be that as it may, I could not let the death of Mr. Mandela pass without writing about seeing him in the flesh.

In 2004 Mr. Mandela came to Trinidad and Tobago to meet with the then Vice President of FIFA. The out come of his meeting, it was hoped, would be the privilege of South Africa hosting the World Cup in the not to distant future. It was reported in the media that Mr. Mandela would be hosted at a spacial one thousand dollar ($1,000.00) a plate dinner and I immediately said I must be there (outside) to see him passing by. Thankfully, my mother supported my photographic aspirations and so she accompanied me on this and many other paparazzi outings. We stood outside the venue at about 7:00 p.m. and soon enough a small group gathered. As we just about gave up seeing Mr. Mandela, a police officer came out and greeted us. He asked if we wanted to see Mr.Mandela and needless to say everyone answered positively, nodding their heads vigorously.

The police officer ushered us into the compound and asked that we stand facing the entrance of a large brilliantly lit hallway. As a side door opened my attention turned towards the persons attending the function, sitting at their tables dining and chatting. Our attention was brought back to the entrance of the building as Mr. Mandela was being led down the hallway. His was a humble presence, reflecting his appreciation at being the center of attention. I marveled at how ordinary he looked. I remember thinking someone who stood up to the likes of Bota, his racist regime and the whole apartheid system, surely should look like Goliath of the Bible. Instead he mirrored David.

He was dressed in one of his famous stylish trademark printed shirts and his full head of grey hair no doubt symbolized years of experience and wisdom. I stood in ore of his life and struggles and I was inspired to kept struggling, to kept “walking that long walk to freedom”. He strode slowly to his car and I ran as far forward as I was allowed, to take some shots with my 110 Kodak camera. Soon enough he disappeared into the darkness of the car’s interior. I felt privileged just to have see Mr. Mandela.

If you take time to read my profile on this site you would see that the photos I took of Mr. Mandela that night did not print. I however have memories, including memories of the cheese cake that the waitresses gave us as we were about to leave. Viva Mandela rest in peace. (1918-2013).

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