“We used to sing and dance and fully enjoyed the perfect freedom we seemed to have far away from the old people. After supper we would listen enthralled to my mother and sometimes my aunt telling us stories, legends, myths and fables which have come down from countless generations, and all of which tended to stimulate the imagination and contained some valuable moral lesson. As I look back to those days I am inclined to believe that the type of life I led at my home, my experiences in the veld where we worked and played together in groups, introduced me at an early age to the ideas of collective effort.”
— Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918 – 2013)
Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 on July 18. To mark the Mandela Centennial and celebrate his life and legacy, Bonnections has launched a collective #WalkTogether story telling project (online & offline) with a series of events to renew the Madiba legacy in Bonn. The project is inspired by the global #WalkTogether centennial campaign of The Elders to inspire hope and compassion and continue Mandela’s long Walk to Freedom.
Bonn was the center of the anti-apartheid movement in West Germany and many Bonners met Mandela during his historic visits to the former capital in June 1990 and May 1996. In a local #WalkTogether action week (July 18-25) some of them will share their Mandela stories with us. The action week includes an intercultural Mandela100 Summer Fest, featuring local hiphop artists, folk musicians and singer-songwriters, that took place yesterday at the Rudolf-Steiner-House. All events are free of charge and everyone warmly welcome.
One of the musicans, Augusto Saico Baldé , performed on June 11, 1990 at the welcome reception for Nelson Mandela hosted by former chancellor and Nobel peace prize laureate Willy Brandt at the SPD party headquarters in Bonn. Balde, who was born in Guinea-Bissau and studied macroeconomics in Russia and Germany, also talked about his experience in the anti-apartheid movement which he joined as a student in Bonn.
At Saturday’s grassroots Mandela100 tribute concert Baldé played a few songs he had written in support of Nelson Mandela and the struggle against the apartheid system, titled “Nelson Mandela- heroi de Africa ” , “Soweto” and “Africa Unite”. Another highlight was a poetry slam performance by Ingo Nordmann of the song“Weißes Privileg” (white privilege) of the singer-songwriter rap duo Simon & Ingo.
WalkingTogether with street musicians
The musical lineup incuded local folk musicans and singer-song writers John Harrison, Sebastian Landwehr and Daniel Bongart who are protesting the City’s recent decision to raise the 2-day permit for street musicians from 10 to 25 Euro. A week ago, Bongart organized a demonstration for street music in the city center and submitted a citizen proposal (Bürgerantrag) against the increased street music fee that will be addressed by the City Council on August 29.
“Before you even open your guitar case you will need to visit Bonn’s City Hall and hope to be one of the three musicians ‘given’ permission to play for half an hour before moving on again – for another half hour – to a location legally out of sight and sound of the first location,” Folk Club Bonn member John Hurd explains. “Street Music is in fact a part of any City’s cultural diversity, creates a friendlier atmosphere on the streets, adds colour to the City for visiting tourists and also puts a human face on the increasingly distracted environment we live in.”
In Cape Town, street musicians were also busking for Madiba last Wednesday in support of the International Nelson Madela Day for 67 minutes at 67 different locations to spread smiles through their music and raise money towards music development for less privileged children.
Nelson Mandela loved loved music, and was often seen after his release from prison dancing at events around the world. Appearing on state at a Johnny Clegg concert in 1999 in Frankfurt, he said, “Music and dancing makes me at peace with the world … and makes me at peace with myself.”
Annedore Smith is a German journalist and former anti-apartheid activist, who lives today in Oberursel near Frankfurt. Back in 1999, Mandela was visiting Germany to give a keynote address at the 25th anniversary celebration of Germany’s development agency GTZ (the predecessor of GIZ). Smith covered the event as a journalist. She met Nelson Mandela for the first time in London working as a BBC reporter at a press conference during his historic visit n spring 1990, just two months after his release from prison, where he’d spent 27 years of his life.
Making Music for Madiba in London
Smith remembers Mandela’s legendary stage appearance on April 16, 1990, at the “International Tribute for a Free South Africa” charity concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in London. The musical lineup included Johnny Clegg, the Simple Minds, Lou Reed, Chrissie Hynde, Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Neil Young and Peter Gabriel, but the person who brought down the house was Madiba. Speaking in front of a crowd of 72,000 — and millions who were watching the TV broadcast in more than 60 countries — Mandela thanked all his supporters around the world, saying:
“Thank you that you chose to care, because you could have decided otherwise. Thank you that you elected not to forget, because our fate could have been a passing concern. We are here today because, for almost three decades, you sustained a campaign for the unconditional release of all South African political prisoners. We are here because you took the humane decision that you could not ignore the inhumanity represented by the apartheid system.”
Annedore Smith, who has worked for many years on the African continent as a foreign correspondent and media trainer, will give a talk tomorrow at the Eco Monday Mandela100 Special event (July 23) at 6 PM as part of the local #Mandela100 Action Week and tell us about the solidarity concerts in London and the role that pop music played in the anti-apartheid struggle.
The Simple Minds, who wrote the Mandela Day song for the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute Concert in London as an expression of solidarity for the then imprisoned Mandela, are currently on tour in Germany. They will play next Wednesday at the KunstRasen open-air festival in Bonn and perfrom a set of iconic songs spanning their whole career and tracks from their new album Walk Between Worlds.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Nelson Mandela’s name was not widely known outside Africa. The 1984 hit “Free Nelson Mandela” changed that. The song was written by the British Ska musician and Specials founder Jerry Dammers, who first encountered Mandela’s name in 1983 while attending a concert in London to mark the imprisoned activist’s 65th birthday. During the set of the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, the crowd chanted “Free Mandela!”.
In 1985, the Artists United Against Apartheid protest group was founded in the United States by Steven van Zandt , an actor (Sopranos), activist and guitarist of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and record producer Arthur Baker to protest apartheid. They recruited 50 famous musicans who pledged their cultural boycott against South Africa in the song “Sun City” The song’s refrain–“I ain’t gonna play Sun City!”–was a reference to the Sun City casino resort in South Africa, which booked major rock and pop acts.
A year later, Dammers founded “Artists Against Apartheit ” in the United Kingdom and initiated the 1988 Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday concert at the Wembley Stadium where Van Zandt performed the protest song “Sun City” along wiht the Simple Minds.
“The situation in South Africa was dire. There’d been massacres and it was getting worse, but obviously negotiations were going on behind the scenes. The sanctions campaign tipped the balance. All those people who didn’t bank at Barclays or buy South African fruit helped bring about change. It was people power around the world. But what we did was nothing compared to the sacrifices made by those who suffered under apartheid,” Dammers recalled in a 2013 interview with The Guardian.
In her Mandela100 talk, Annerode Smith, will not only tell us about the anti-apartheid movement in England, but also explore Mandela’s legacy with regards to the global inqualities and challenges of our times. The below podcast interview with her was recorded at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in mid-June. The 2018 conference theme was “Global Inequalities”.