Where is the Historical Mandela?

 -Is there even a historical Mandela out there-

One of the great theological questions in the subject field of Christology concerns itself in quest on the Historical Jesus. An understanding of Jesus before He is the Christ.

I thought about this when I mused on what is the overarching aim of the latest Mandela movie. The claim is made that it is premised on the book “Long Walk to Freedom,” yet it can also be said as Richard Poplak reviews it as “Long Walk to Mediocrity.”

Let me put my disclaimer out, I am not a movie – reviewer by profession, yet I read the comments of those who are professionals. We have had so many Mandela movies, portrayed by at least four characters from a Sidney Poitier to a Morgan Freeman yet none helps us in understanding the Historical Mandela! Mandela the human! Mandela the ordinary!

What this movie does is again overemphasizing as we say in Afrikaans “holrig-geryde” (overstated) RECONCILIATION THEME, for which Mandela in solitary sense comes immortalized if not trapped in eternity embrace.

Can we please learn of the man Mandela long before this necessity for an “Iconic Reconciler Status” and “white” sector interest existed?

Mandela the ordinary and yet rational thinker who made choices to be involved in political struggle as an ordinary South African like so many of us at some point in history had to do.

Mandela one of Umkhonto- We-Sizwe (ANC – Military Wing) founders, who adopted violence as a justified means of response to a repressive Apartheid militarised system. Mandela in his miscalculations, and political infancy.

Mandela an unshaped rural mind who wrestles with his own culture, royal lineage and the inviting lights of the big city. Long before, he was a jurist. Long before his Rivonia Trial because some again only can relate to him as if he was born in Lilliesleaf Farm with a “white” Dennis Goldberg and others. Mandela before Robben Island. Mandela long before he became this superpower no different to a Spiderman or Superman with superpowers uniquely gifted devoid of his ANC organisation, in which he is portrayed the antithesis of the very political cradle he comes from. Mandela the ANC – Youth League Rebel, Mandela the player (womanizer), Mandela just Mandela.

Mandela is portrayed larger than all nine ANC presidents before and two after him even those who mentored him like a Walter Sisulu. This tired and pummelled Reconciliation Theme, lends itself to mediocrity for it is serving the interest of those who straight-jackets an ordinary man no different to many others who made choices not to become a hero, icon and saint- but to lend a hand like so many of us did.

I honestly think we have yet not been told the story of an ordinary Mandela devoid of the trapped and forced imagery of an icon. If I may quote Poplak, again “Mandela’s superpowers were of course, his unflinching belief in the power of reconciliation, and his ability to generate symbolic moments and use them as political tools. They deserve to be rendered with greater care. For the meantime, we will have to content ourselves with the plethora of Mandela content out there”

I am almost advocating for a form of iconoclasm of the crafted deity and imagery of a Mandela. At the rate we go, ordinary people cannot and will not be able in the emerging future to associate with Mandela because he is cast in one-dimensional iconic character.

Maybe I am asking for the Historical Mandela, not the deity, not the saint, not the moral authority,  the Mandela that ordinary people can relate to. He was not born a reconciler, he certainly was not born an icon, and he was not born the “white or black” hope of the continent or world. He is a man like all other.

In whose interest is, he immortalized as this DEITY.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine


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