Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
REST In POWER MADIBA
It was very touching to attend a screening of the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. I was moved to see a thoughtful rendition of the lives of two great African leaders: Nelson and Winnie. Principle actors Idris Elba (who convincingly embodies Nelson Mandela; capturing his elocution, poise and command) and Naomie Harris (who powerfully communicates the harsh trials and will that create a revolutionary) provide wonderful performances that both Nelson and Winnie approved of without any oversight. The film Mandela speaks for both of them because without the other, neither may have achieved greatness. Further, there is a feminine consciousness within the late, great Nelson Mandela that is rarely discussed. Despite a youth spent achieving professional prosperity as a lawyer and womanizing—as the film illustrates—Mandela eventually recognized that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With every stage of his engagement with the increasingly antagonistic and violent anti-apartheid movement (totally non-violent from 1912-1960, until the Sharpeville Massacre) Mandela gained greater understanding that the way forward for a free South Africa requires solidarity, love and sacrifice. The most compelling dimension of the Mandela saga, for me, is the way that admirers and sycophants fear the enormous strength, anger and courage of Winnie and are in awe of the empathy, pragmatism and courage of Nelson. Man, woman; woman, man: which shall I revere? The woman with a man’s steel or the man with a woman’s grace? I would answer, we should learn from both. Nelson and Winnie struggled through unimaginable trials that I am disinclined to detail –and you can study for yourself. However, the impressions they leave us with, which are the bedrock of Mandela the film, are that they were two powerful young people in a divided nation struggling for equality. Both were flawed and beautiful. Both suffered unimaginable abuse from white oppressors. Yet, the struggles of people like Albert Luthuli, Ruth First, Lillian Ngoyi, Robert Sobukwe, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo, Steve Biko, Helen Suzman, Leon Sullivan, Denis, Goldberg, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, countless artists, activists, unknowns and deceased made modern South Africa. The end of apartheid was largely symbolic and the nation remains deeply unequal. However, in viewing a reverential film like Mandela you get that little tickle in your throat and whisper in your ear that freedom and justice are possible; that great women and men roam the earth waiting for allegiance.