Today marks the birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, The man who devoted his life to the struggle of tearing down the segregationist policies of South Africa’s apartheid system and who fought to build a democracy where all South Africans shared the same justice system, freedom, and were equally respected.
“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.” -Nelson Mandela
This Mandela Day we share 10 facts about Nelson Mandela you probably didn’t know:
- Nelson was not his original name – He was born Rolihlahla Mandela and was given the name “Nelson” when he was nine years old by a teacher at the primary Methodist school which he attended in Qunu, South Africa. It was common practice in South Africa at the time to give all schoolchildren English names that were easily pronounced.
- Nelson Mandela stood tall at 1.84m
- Mandela’s family was considered royalty – Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, Mandela’s father was a chief of Mvezo, a village on the banks of the Mbashe River, known today as the Banshee River. He died from lung disease when Nelson was 12 years old.
- There is a woodpecker named after him – Australopicus nelsonmandelai – Scientists have added a tribute to Mandela by naming a prehistoric woodpecker after him. The remains of the bird were unearthed by French and German scientists at the Langebaanweg fossil site on South Africa’s southwest coast.
- Mandela was a heavy-weight boxer in his youth and had a passion for the sport – The great American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard gifted Mandela with the WBC world championship belt shortly after his release from prison in 1990.
- Mandela had a cameo in a Spike Lee movie – He plays a teacher reciting the famous Malcolm X speech to a room full of Soweto school kids in the 1992 film, “Malcolm X”.
- Chicken Curry – Mandela’s first meal after being released from prison – Although he had a love for Indian cuisine, his favourite food was tripe – the stomach lining of farm animals like cows and sheep.
- Mandela hosted the first 46664 Concert in 2003 at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town – The 46664 concert raised awareness about the spread of HIV/Aids in the country, a cause very close to Mandela’s heart after losing his son to Aids in 2005. The number 46664 was Mandela’s prison number.
- Mandela made his final public appearance during the World Cup closing ceremony in 2010 at the age of 92 – wrapped up warmly and waving to the cheering crowd during the closing ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 11 July was the last public appearance Nelson Mandela did.
- Mandela died on the 5 December 2013 at the age of 95 – he died at his home in Houghton, South Africa due to a recurring lung infection.
We celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day in honour of a man who selflessly dedicated his life to bettering the lives of an entire nation.