It is my privilege today to welcome you to the Nelson Mandela Museum, and to take you on a virtual tour of the sites and sounds associated with Mr Mandela in Qunu.
To us, the entire Mthatha area is hallowed ground anointed by the presence of uTata. It was in these hills and valleys, these villages, where the long walk began. It was this environment, these hills and rondawels and traditions and customs that honed his regal Abathembu bearing, his understanding of leadership… his love of this land and its people.
There are three villages, in close proximity to each other with, which Mr Mandela was closely associated. Born in Mvezo, he moved to Qunu when he was 2-years-old, spending seven years here.After his father passed away, the young Madiba moved to Mqhekezweni under the guardianship of the reigning Thembu monarch, uJongintaba. It was to Qunu that he returned following his retirement.
In Qunu reside uTata’s earliest memories, he was to write later in Long Walk to Freedom. Many of these memories are around us, here, almost in touching distance. This is why we like to say that we are guardians of the authentic landscape and footprints of Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela.
In 1920 when Tata moved to Qunu, this place where we are gathered today was a relatively bare hillside – the ideal place for stick-fighting. The stick-fighting tactics he first learned of here, were later to serve him well in his political life. Stick-fighters use a long stick for defence and a short stick for offence. The art of this traditional sport was to know when to defend and when to attack.
As you exit our gate you pass Qunu Junior Secondary School. This was the location of the old Qunu Primary School, Tata’s first school, where he was given the name, “Nelson”. It was common, in those days of mission education, for children to receive a Christian name. He was the first member of his family to attend school. The school, then, was contained in rondawels. In the grounds of the school the foundations of one of the rondawels is still clearly visible.
About 200 metres to my left, below the tennis court, are the smooth rocks that Tata remembers as one of the local playgrounds. These are the sliding rocks he referred to in his autobiography, that children slid down, again and again, sometimes until their backside were raw.
The hillside, beyond the sliding rocks, was the scene of a seminal childhood memory. It was a thorny place, where Tata recalls falling off a donkey and being laughed at and humiliated by other children. He was very angry and wrote later that this incident led to a conscious decision never to humiliate others. It was one of the spaces and one of the incidents that shaped his life.
The village beneath us is where Tata had his home, and is the site of the original Mandela Family Cemetery. The church he attended, where he was Christened, the African Native Church, is 2.5 kilometres away.
This combination of historical places, coupled with Tata’s love of children, rendered siting the Nelson Mandela Museum Youth and Heritage Centre here perfect and ideal.
We hold all kids of activities for young people at this facility, from boxing tournaments to poetry recitals, art workshops and debates. We host visiting youth from South Africa and abroad, and try, through our programmes, to instil in them some of the values and principles with which Tata was so closely associated.
We deeply regret that the Bunga is closed for renovations, now, because we would have loved to have been able to show you around our more formal Museum site, where collections are held andexhibitions displayed. The two “campuses”, the Bunga and the Youth and Heritage Centre, complement each other very well.
I would now like to call on Mr Eddie Marafane of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency to tell you a little bit about the province’s Home of Legends programme, with which this museum is proud to be associated.
Then, to conclude this briefing, we have invited representatives of three local schools to help us create anenduring touchstone to mark this sad time in history. We will help the children to cast their hands in stone. When the cement has dried the handprints will be sealed and put on permanent display with a commemorative plaque. We believe Mr Mandela would approve of this honour bestowed on him by local children. We want future generations to underatdn the deapth of Tata’s love for children.
We are very grateful for your attendance today, and for the work you are doing telling the world of the glory of Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela.