Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

It was with sadness that I heard of the death of Nelson Mandela today. What an inspirational man - we can only hope to have more like him. I have strong emotional memories of his release from prison in 1990 and below is a poem my mother wrote at that time, with a few words from her about it. Many thanks to Dolores for allowing me to print it here. I cannot think of Nelson Mandela without thinking of my mother's involvement in the Irish Anti Apartheid Movement and her desire to write about injustice, in the hopes of being a small cog in the big machine of change. I am so grateful to her for opening my eyes to the world and teaching me to care. She traveled widely and interviewed many witnesses who suffered under the Apartheid regime as research for a book she subsequently wrote. Hearing her stories and the stories of those who fought against apartheid was one of the most valuable parts of my education. 

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Upon Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island in 1990, the late Kadar Asmal of the Irish Anti Apartheid Movement asked me to write a poem marking the occasion, which I did. The poem was published in a commemorative magazine published by the Irish Anti Apartheid Movement at the time. 
It was also read by the actress Ruth Rosen for Nelson Mandela at a packed Wembley Stadium in London, and at his tribute concert in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin.



Dear President-Elect

Your crown of old snow
tells us how you have
wintered in a
wasteland not of
your own making.

But now at last you
come among us
resurrect, a man whose
cross is buried in his
eyes.  All Africa toyi-toyis,
heaves her welcome as
you stand, arms held
wide, three decades long
crucified, your words
telling again the old
hard story of every
cell where the small
bird beats for freedom:
“there too, lies Mandela.” 

Dolores Walshe


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