I was on Twitter the day Madiba died, silently observing my fellow secondary school alumni reminisce about life in Loyola Jesuit College. It was themed ‘Loyola Memories’. I would occasionally laugh at some tweets I considered funny and shake my head at the ones that were begging for retweets. It was interesting but I would not join in. It got tiring at some point. I wanted it to end. One can only have so many memories. I left Twitter, hoping to come back when it had ended.
I was back and the tweets had stopped. Nelson Mandela was dead. I found out through a tweet by ‘BBC Breaking News’.
“Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, dies aged 95…”
They had included a picture of a smiling Mandela as well.
I stopped for a second. I didn’t know how to react and so I retweeted it. What followed on my timeline was a series of tweets with pictures of Mandela, with numerous quotes. There were some cases where people had tweeted pictures of Morgan Freeman instead. It was the same on Instagram. I hoped he would rest in peace but I would not tweet a picture. I considered it somewhat hypocritical and insincere to search Google for a picture at that very moment, as I didn’t previously have a picture of Nelson Mandela on any device that I owned.
I also didn’t know any quotes but I remembered a book I once had. It was one of the first books I wasn’t forced to read. It was called Madiba: The Rainbow Man. My father had given it to me as a present. He had just visited South Africa. I listened as he told me how he had been to where Mandela was imprisoned and stared wide-eyed as he proudly showed me pictures of him in Mandela’s room in a house he had once lived in. I don’t remember much. I was quite young. I wish I had gone along but I had to go to school. He promised that we would visit another time and we did. I don’t recall if I ever got to see the iconic places my father told me about. Perhaps we forgot. It was a long time ago.
Although I had to wait till summer to go see the places and learn more about this man who had brought such excitement to my father, I was happy that I had my book with a smiling Madiba on the cover. I don’t know why but I smiled too as I proceeded to read about the rainbow man. I was about to explore, with the help of my imagination, the heroic life of Nelson Mandela.
So on the day Madiba died, as I scrolled through my timeline and read these tweets, I wished I still had my copy of the book that taught me most of the things that I know about the life of Nelson Mandela. I tried hard to remember some chapters but it was difficult. It was then that I decided to search for ‘Madiba: The Rainbow Man’.
(Madiba: The Rainbow Man is a children's book on the life of Nelson Mandela written by Lionel J. Maxim.)