Nelson Mandela, whose successful struggle against South Africa’s apartheid system made him a global symbol for the cause of human rights would have turned 100 years old this year.
In our local #Mandela100 story telling project we traced Nelson Mandela’s footsteps in Bonn, West Germany’s former capital, featuring people who met Madiba, as he was affectionately called, during his lifetime. We learned that people from different cultures and walks of life relate to Mandela and the values he embodies for different reasons. Some of these are peace, humility and forgiveness and his unwavering commitment to freedom, equality, justice and dignity for all.
Mandela earned lots of respect from Africans and across the globe, because, once in power, he decided to only stay for one term in the presidential office and then leave. “And this is a revolution in Africa. He could have stayed until his death because he was already the myth,” wrote Mamadou Diouf, director of Columbia University’s Institute for African Studies in New York, in his eulogy.
Former German anti-apartheid activists, international development workers, journalists and members of the local Africa diaspora praised Mandela’s role in peace building and conflict resolution, for promoting democracy worldwide, but some suggested that his pro-business and foreign investment friendly policy approach to development also prevented him from effectively addressing social-economic injustice, poverty and corruption.
Reflecting on Mandela’s life and legacy
For Dr. Stephan Kaußen the way in which Mandela reconciled a bitterly divided nation and won the love and respect of almost all his compatriots, the so-called Madiba magic, may be his most enduring legacy. Kaußen is a German journalist, sports reporter and internationally recognised scholar of African transition and transformation processes. He has been involved with South Africa for over two decades, especially with Nelson Mandela who died five years ago at the age of 95.
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death, Stephan Kaußen will give a talk about Mandela’s long Walk to Freedom and the post-apartheid reconciliation process. His lecture will close the local #Mandela100 series aimed at inspiring change and renewing the Mandela legacy in Bonn. The event is free and takes place at MIGRApolis (Brüdergasse 16-18, 53111 Bonn) on Dec. 4th at 7 PM as part of Bonn’s biennial Week of Cultures (Nov. 22 – Dec. 5). The 2018 theme is “Shaping Diversity – Overcoming Boundaries”.
Kaußen will read from his new book, a Nelson Mandela biography co-written by bestselling author Christian Nürnberger. Published this spring, the 100-page book is geared to young adults and teens (age 13 and up) and an excellent introduction to the global peace icon and freedom fighter. The book offers a straightforward overview of Mandela’s extraordinary life story and a comprehensive and vivid portrait of the man behind the myth. Readers also learn about South Africa’s wider history and the struggle against racial discrimination. In the second part, Kaußen takes a deeper look at today’s South Africa and what is left from Mandela’s dream of a Rainbow Nation.
Following Mandela’s Footsteps in Bonn
Mandela visited Bonn for the first time in June 1990, just four months after his release from prison, on the invitation of former chancellor Willy Brandt as the then president of the Socialist International. He returned in May 1996 as South Africa’s president.
In his adresss to members of the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament), Mandela thanked for the solidarity in the struggle against apartheid and acknowledged “the sacrifices of ordinary German working people and professionals, poets and writers, politicians and religious leaders, and many more, who made it possible that we could stand here, proud representatives of a truly African Rainbow Nation, to proclaim to the echo of the valleys and hills of Europe, that we are free at last!”
Kaußen has been fascinated by Mandela’s capacity, after spending 27 years in prison, to forgive and reconcile, to embraces his former enemies and humanise them, in particular how he used sports as a tool to unite South Africans and transform the nation’s global image. For him, one of Mandela’s most striking reconciliation gestures happened during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
The Unifying Power of Sports
The year before Mandela had been sworn in country’s first black president, but many white Afrikaans still considered him a terrorist. Wearing the jersey of the national rugby team, Mandela walked onto the field before the final against England, wishing good luck to the South African team which only had only one non-white player. The Springboks won the game. The picture of Mandela, wearing the green and gold Springboks jersey and presenting the World Cup trophy to the team captain Francois Pienaar remains one of the most iconic images from his presidency.
Mandela defied his advisers to wear the shirt of the national rugby team, because he knew this unifying gesture could accomplish more than years of talks. The story was later dramatized in the 2009 movie Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
This sense of unity re-emerged a year later, when South Africa hosted the African Nations Cup. It was the national team’s first appearance after a decades long ban in the tournament and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana team won their first title on home soil.
“Rugby was considered the sport of the Boers and the white oppressors, and football the sport of the black majority. These were the key scenes of reconciliation sent from the Cape to the world, showing that there was truly room for good hope,” says Kaußen, who wrote his master’s thesis in 1998 on the contribution of sports to reconciliation.
After writing his dissertation „From Apartheid to Democracy“ at the RWTH Aachen University, the University of Western Cape (UWC) offered Kaußen a professorship. Based in Cape Town, he then worked over three years on the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the first ever on the African continent.
During this time, he also worked as a sports reporter for German radio and television, including the ARD network, Phoenix and n-tv. In April 2014, Kaußen published the book „20 Years of Freedom. Mandela’s South Africa. Vision or Reality?“ It was released twenty years after the end of apartheid and half a year after Mandela’s death in December 2013.
The anti-apartheid struggle, and Nelson Mandela in particular, have had a transformative impact on his life and work, Kaußen says. In his writings and lectures, he emphases on Mandela’s reconciliation-oriented leadership and ‘gentle dominance’ as one of his main characteristics. Kaußen admits that this sounds “at first like a contradiction, almost as strong as the contrast between black and white, but Madiba’s fight was exactly about that.”
Spreading Madiba’s story through pop-art
Born on July 18, 1918 into a traditional royal family of the Tembu Tribe in the Eastern Cape Province, Mandela was given the forename Rolihlahla, which means “troublemaker” in Xhosa. He was the first of his family to attend school and went to Johannesburg to study law, but his fight against racial segregation and work with the African National Congress (ANC) interrupted his studies. Hist arrest in 1962 set in motion a chain of actions and worldwide protests that made Mandela the world’s famous political prisoner. After his release in 1990, Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He was sworn in 1994 as the first black president of South Africa and said in his inaugural address that “the time for the healing of the wounds has come.”
„Mandela remains one the greatest role model of modern times. Not revenge, despite 27 years in prison, but building bridges was his message. I think we would do
well today and our world be in a better shape, if we follow his example and vision of our shared humanity. Cooperation instead of confrontation,” Kaußen says.
In the Mandela centenary year, he teamed up with German artist Ralf Metzenmacher to honour Mandela’s legacy and keep his message of hope alive in Germany. The two have been working together for more than 10 years on various artistic projects, including the illustrated book „Food for Thought from a Different Perspective“, and co-founded the Retro-Kunst-Paket initiative.
Reflecting on the theme of Mandela’s universal values was the next step, and Kaußen commissioned a series of pop-art portraits of Nelson Mandela from his long-time friend and colleague. Metzenmacher, who grew up in the West-German city of Aachen (Aix de la Chapelle), lives in Bamberg in Bavaria. He worked for many years as the Head of Design at PUMA, but left the company in 2004 at the peak of his success to become a freelance artist, painter, designer – and sometimes philosopher. Kaußen calls his companion “a paintbrush philosopher”.
Rainbow Mandela Arts Series
The result of their newest “intellectual co-production”, which they call „Mandelafication“, is a Rainbow Mandela collection. Parts of the proceeds from the sale of the organic cotton Mandela T-shirts , posters and postcards goes to non-profit projects.
“In Bonn, for example, we’re helping Bonn Fünfte (secondary school) to raise funds for their new South Africa school exchange project with the NDYEBO Senior school, a township school in Port Elizabeth,” says Kaußen.
Metzenmacher explains his activism art approach this way: “Of course, I associate myself to the two worlds that have shaped and always fascinated me: painting and design. My first cycles have dealt with the issue of equal rights and the differences between men and women. The next topic was more historical: The role of religions in the Middle East, the field of tension among Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and the search for the ‘New Saints’ like Barack Obama.”
His artistic examination of US foreign politics since George W. Bush manifested itself in the „Guantánamo Dove“ painting. “This, in return, gave rise to other ‘Pigeons for Peace and Freedom”, which dealt with questions of the rule of law and democracy in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, but also the Middle East,” he explains.
Metzenmacher’s colorful Mandela artwork will be displayed next week in Bonn as part of an intercultural celebration with artistic inspirations on human dignity to mark the 5th anniversary of Mandela’s death and International Volunteer Day.
The pop-up exhibit will also present 30 Human Rights posters from designers around the world as well as work from local artists to celebrate the 70th birthday of the UN Human Rights Declaration on Dec. 10th, including:
- A wooden king figure by Ralf Knoblauch
- A Human Rights installation by Michael Gatzke
- Im Namen der Wellen arts performance video by Marguerite Apostolidis
- Photography by Robin Dirks and Sultan Yousif
- Display of colorful blankets and scarves collected by the local edition of the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day initiative.
The hand-made blankets will be distributed to local charities and the scarves tied to trees or hung up in public spaces (as part of the Secret Scarves Shhh….!! mission) for people to take. Each scarf will have a message attached which reads “I AM NOT LOST. IF YOU ARE COLD AND NEED ME, PLEASE TAKE ME. LOVE, 67 BLANKETS FOR NELSON MANDELA DAY”.
(See event flyer in German A5 MAndela 100 Flyer as PDF )
Walking Together to #StandUp4HumanRights
There are also plans under way for an artistic rising in Germany’s UN city the following week on Dec. 10th (Human Rights Day) to engage local audiences, calling on them to show their solidarity and support for the Human Rights Declaration’s universal principles. Organized by the “In the Name of the Waves” initiative, this site-specific arts performance with volunteers is inspired by the global #WalkTogther campaign of the Elders. The open rehearsal for the arts performance takes place on Sunday, Dec. 9th, 1 – 3 PM, at Alte VHS.
Local artists, activists, refugees and grassroots groups also want to voice their support for the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The migration compact was conceived after the biggest influx of migrants into Europe since World War ll, and millions fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and beyond. It was approved in July by all 193 UN member nations except the United States, and will be ratified at a UN summit in Marrakesh on Dec. 10/11. However, due to misleading information and rightwing populist propaganda claiming the legally non-binding agreement would lead to “a human right to migration”, a claim dismissed by the UN, seven EU countries have announced to pull out from the migration pact. Outside the EU, Australia, Switzerland and Israel also announced that they will not sign the agreement.