by Collins Uma
Madiba Rohlilahla Nelson Mandela was Ijele. He was not mere man. His immortality did not just begin. He has always been immortal. We are fortunate that he walked among us, in flesh. He never belonged to us.
How do you begin to pen a eulogy for one like Madiba? You think of Africa, his home for 95 years. You think of masquerades. And you think of Ijele.
Ijele is not a masquerade. Not a few commentators have succumbed to the fallacy of labelling it as such. They say it is a big masquerade. The biggest masquerade. This is wrong. Ijele is not a big masquerade. It is not the biggest masquerade. Of course, Ijele is big. Bigger than all the masquerades. But Ijele is neither the biggest masquerade nor is it the king of masquerades. This is because Ijele is not a masquerade.
Ijele is Ijele.
Ijele is in a class by its own self. It is utter disrespect to Ijele, and crass unfairness to masquerades, to lump Ijele in a category with masquerades. The absurdity of this idea is recognised by even masquerades who disagree with being put in the same bracket with Ijele. So Ijele does not perform with masquerades. Ijele performs last. Ijele performs alone. And 45 different masquerades perform ON Ijele, represented by the 45 figurines seen on top of Ijele. When Ijele performs it does not acknowledge the cheers, applause, and ululations of the crowd, no matter how tumultuous, because Ijele does not entertain, it is just being Ijele.
Madiba Rohlilahla Nelson Mandela was Ijele. He was not mere man. His immortality did not just begin. He has always been immortal. We are fortunate that he walked among us, in flesh. He never belonged to us. We are fortunate to have seen this dance. It will take many moons to see this again, if our fortune persists.
Madiba spoke many words on life, leadership, and change. We capture a few of the immortal words here:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being an optimist is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.”
“There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lies defeat and death.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
“Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life.”
“There is no passion to be found in playing small – settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
“Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.”
“Our human compassion binds us to one another – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Jee nke oma!