Madiba and Me (JB)


julianabjornsdottir_dlJust over a week ago, the world was struck with a grievous news. The death of Madiba, otherwise known as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, was a blow to humanity in this season of joy.

We have known for quite some time that Mandela’s life was nearing its end and we all dreaded the moment the news would break. As I read the inevitable notification, I was simultaneously filled with sorrow for the great loss my beloved South Africa and the entire world feels in his eternal absence but also gratitude for living in the age of his greatness.

A number of my colleagues came up to me the following day, asking how my South African husband was coping. Our reaction to Madiba’s death can be described as a slow contemplation of the legacy he leaves behind and the peaceful world he wanted for us all.

His message of kindness and shared responsibility for the world is one that has inspired generations—both the generations that remember the apartheid era from within and from afar and the generations who were but children when it all came to an end.

I remember Madiba as the man who spent 27 years in prison for his freedom fighting and who came out with forgiveness in his heart.

Through my newly-inherited South African connection, I have gotten to know him better. He was a man who freely admitted to his personal flaws and the mistakes he made. It was what made him great and unlike any leader in the past, he declared the way forward was the road to peace.

Many outside of South Africa know little about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a commission which, to put it simply, was to be a force of transition to move the country to peace and reconciliation. The foundation of the new South Africa was to be a united front of people of all races, tribes and religions.

It was a known fact that the goals of the Rainbow Nation would not be reached overnight. Madiba knew it would take generations for this nation in the mend to heal and put the past where it belongs, in the past. But he also knew it was more than a dream, that it was a vision for a future that would be and it was the task of the people to make it from one transitional stage to the next, until the rainbow was completed.

Yesterday, we bid farewell to Madiba. It was a beautiful day in the city of Reykjavík. The enigmatic scenery was exquisite. Snow-clad grounds glittered beneath the beautiful skies and as night fell in the afternoon, the moon shone as brightly as the noon sun on a summer’s day.

The universe commemorated his legacy from as far as little Iceland.

The coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death was covered extensively by media around the globe this past week and no doubt will continue to be for the weeks to come as South Africa transitions to a place where his legacy is the aspiration for a better future.

But for some reason, and former journalist Svanhildur Hólm mentioned it on the Sunday morning discussion program, Sunnudagsmorgun, there was very little discussion in Iceland about the death of this great man and the future without him.

On the day of his memorial service, December 11, as far as I am aware not a single member of parliament took the time to mention the loss of this great man and the influence he has had on our world as we know it. If I am wrong, then I am greatly relieved. And if the case is that the media failed to report on the MPs commemoration of Madiba, then their role and integrity is indeed questionable.

However, in my recent discussions and conversations with friends and family, none have detected a particular interest in Mandela’s death or the significance it has had on people all over the world.

Members of parliaments and congresses around the globe honored Mandela in their grand halls with speeches about his extraordinary character. It seems the world has come together and stands as a united front in honoring the legacy so rooted in the hearts of the generations that live to tell the tale of how Madiba inspired them to be better.

I hope against hope, that despite the foreign nationality and distance from South Africa, Icelandic politicians and the media understand the relevance of his death, as my colleagues and great many Icelanders indeed do, to Icelandic society.

After all, greatness transpires through gates of nationality and religion when it is presented in the form of such an awe-inspiring ambassador of peace that was our beloved Madiba.

After all, truth and reconciliation is always a good company to keep.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir –

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.