18 July 2013 by Lethabo-Thabo Royds

Great South Africans: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

The sacrifices former president Nelson Mandela (and many other great South Africans) made in the struggle against apartheid have shaped the freedom this beautiful country enjoys today.

The Nelson Mandela Capture Site, a few kilometres outside Howick in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, is where Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, and the start of what was to become a 27-year period of imprisonment. Photo courtesy Jacques Roets, aka Roets

The Love South Africa group on Flickr is constantly updated with fantastic images taken all over the country. Why not share your pictures, too?

Each week we select images from this group to share on our blog. This week we celebrate former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, fondly known as 'Madiba', on his 95th birthday today.

South Africa is full of murals, statues, architecture, streets and monuments that celebrate Madiba, his life and his work. In Port Elizabeth, in his home province of the Eastern Cape, you'll find the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The mural below, photographed in Soweto, is one of many to be found across South Africa.

Born in 1918, Mandela began fighting for equality from a young age, and his active opposition to the unjust laws of apartheid resulted in him being tried and sent to prison along other great South Africans such as Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Ahmed Kathrada and Govan Mbeki. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

Mandela was released in February 1990, when the former National Party government decided to go into negotiations with the African National Congress to work towards a peaceful transition. In 1994, when South Africa held its first democratic election, he became the country's first black president, marking a new era for South Africa.

Photo courtesy of Basil, aka bilwander Photo courtesy of Basil, aka bilwander

8115 Vilakazi Street, in Soweto, Gauteng, is where Mandela once lived. It has now been converted into the Mandela Family Museum and, remarkably, the street is the only street in the world to have been home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners, namely Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Photo courtesy of I can't stop it, aka Readioliv Photo courtesy of I can't stop it, aka Readioliv

Mandela and Tutu are not the only South Africans to have won Nobel Prizes (JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer have both won the award for literature, for instance.) The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, Western Cape, pays tribute to four Nobel Peace Prize winners: closest to the camera is Mandela, next to him is former president FW de Klerk, followed by Tutu, and the statue on the far end is that of Chief Albert Luthuli.

Photo courtesy of Robin Denton Photo courtesy of Robin Denton

Another statue of Madiba can be found at Sandton City, a popular mall in the north of Johannesburg. The square at the mall was renamed Nelson Mandela Square in honour of the former president. The bronze statue depicts him doing one of his signature dance moves. On his birthday, celebrated as Mandela Day, the statue is dressed up in an official Mandela Day T-shirt.

Photo courtesy of Antonella AfricanSoul, aka Antophotasia Cape Town Photo courtesy of Antonella AfricanSoul, aka Antophotasia Cape Town

Marco Cianfanelli, a local artist who, according to his bio, '... is constantly looking to realise art where one doesn’t expect to find it and testing the possibilities for artistic intervention in the public realm', created this piece in central Johannesburg entitled 'Shadow Boxing'. The statue (pictured below) stands between Chancellor House and the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.

Chancellor House is where Mandela and Oliver Tambo once had the offices of their law firm, Mandela and Tambo Attorneys. 'Shadow Boxing' stands on a plinth inscribed with a quote from Mandela: 'In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant.' It is also interesting to note that Cianfanelli is also the artist responsible for the sculpture in Howick.

Photo courtesy of Derek Smith, aka Mr Baggins Photo courtesy of Derek Smith, aka Mr Baggins

Another celebration of Madiba in the public realm is this bridge (pictured below), also in Johannesburg. The Nelson Mandela Bridge, found at the end of Jan Smuts Avenue and connecting Newtown and Braamfontein, is a colourful celebration of the man who has inspired so many. At night, the bridge is lit in a range of colours that alternate each night. This means that at any given time, you find more than one colour brightening up your trip over the bridge. The bridge is also symbolic of Nelson Mandela’s role in bridging the apartheid divide.

Photo courtesy of Emily Wellman, aka Sugar Activism Photo courtesy of Emily Wellman, aka Sugar Activism

The City of Cape Town recently launched the 'Cape Town honours Nelson Mandela' project. The executive mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, said that the project was about more than honouring Madiba but also an effort on the part of the city 'to take concrete steps to follow his example'.

This includes ensuring that children across South Africa are recipients of their basic rights. The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund's mission, which can be accessed on its website, is '[t]o give voice and dignity to the African child by building a rights-based movement'.

Photo courtesy of jose romeu de abreu, aka Jose Romeu Photo courtesy of jose romeu de abreu, aka Jose Romeu

Madiba's love for nature also had him pay an official visit to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town in 1996, where he planted an indigenous pepperbark tree (Walburgia salutaris). The garden also honoured Madiba by naming a specially bred strelitzia, Mandela's Gold, after him.

Photo courtesy of Gerhard Buttner, aka gerardobuttner Photo courtesy of Gerhard Buttner, aka gerardobuttner

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela once said '[n]ever, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another ...', and his life is a testament to that.

His unrelenting commitment to this goal is one of the reasons his legacy will live on in the hearts of many South Africans and non-South Africans alike. As we say in isiXhosa, Madiba's home language, 'Siyabulela Tata' (we thank you, Tata).

And this is why we celebrate the birthday of this great South African today!

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