(Photo Credit: Corbis)
The world mourns the death of a great man today, Nelson Mandela. On the way into work, I listened to an interview with Johnny Clegg, a white British man, who formed the first integrated rock band in South Africa. He wrote Asimbonanga ((Mandela) in 1987.
Mandela was in prison at the time. He was imprisoned for 27 years. His release came in 1990.
It was illegal at the time Johnny Clegg wrote the song to possess even the likeness of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Before reading further, take a moment to watch Johnny Clegg perform Asimbonanga in 1999 with Nelson Mandela making an appearance.
Asimbonanga——————–(we have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ umandela thina—–(we have not seen mandela)
Laph’ekhona——————–(in the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona————–(in the place where he is kept)
Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the island into the bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water
A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me
Clegg explained in the interview I heard this morning that the song was inspired by the Poet, John Dunne, who wrote “no man is an island”. The meaning of the words written by Clegg were that as long as Mandela was imprisoned and separated from the nation, all people were separated from each other.
The song was prophetic, in that Mandela was freed in 1990. He went on to become President of South Africa, a country in which a very short time before would not allow white people and black people to interact legally. The lifting of Apartheid brought the people of South Africa together; it lifted the weight of Apartheid from the shoulders of all South Africans, black and white, said Johnny Clegg.
Nelson Mandela is a man who stood strong against the evil of separation. He did it not with violence or anger, but with peace and love. He did it by refusing to succumb to the pressures that make people bitter, hateful and spiteful. He did it by loving himself, his people, his captors and everyone who met him. He was a light in the dark night of Apartheid by refusing to let Apartheid define him.
Imagine having spent 27 years in prison for nothing other than being black and refusing to accept the man-made separation between people of different colored skin. Yet, he did not allow the wrong of Apartheid to conform him to its image; he did not allow Apartheid to harden his own heart; he did not allow it to create separation in his own heart between himself and the people who created the separation.
Nelson Mandela found a higher perspective, and he lived it. By living it, he paved the way for change. He showed the world how real change is affected. It is affected by standing firm on higher principles, self-sacrifice, refusing to bend to hate and responding to everything and everyone with an unwavering love. This is a very short summary of the impact Nelson Mandela had in the world in which he become the catalyst for dramatic change on this day after Nelson Mandela’s death at the age of 94: Nelson Mandela’s Release from Prison