By Erica Annise
As I entered the country of South Africa, I knew my soul would be warmed by the wines, my eyes inspired by the landscape and my heart in love with the tantalizing taste of the food. However, there was a surprise in store for me… the children of South Africa. My interaction with them allowed me to see South Africa through their eyes. I was no longer just a journalist but a true visitor to the new South Africa.
The most awe-inspiring moment of my journey was at the Mandela Capture site outside of Howick in KwaZula-Natal. The site was erected on August 5, 2012 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s “long walk to freedom.” At this site, Nelson Mandela was pretending to be a chauffeur after leaving a meeting of the African National Congress. He had successfully evaded capture for 17 months, but was stopped by Apartheid police and taken into custody. He would go on to spend the next 27 years behind bars charged with high treason. Just as I admire the many revered American civil rights landmarks, this site, too, holds a mystical quality as it marks the transcendence of Nelson Mandela from an ordinary man into an icon.
As my group entered the site area, I couldn’t wait to stretch my legs so I was the first out of the van. When I stood up, I saw two large buses coming down the same road and my first thought was, “Oh no, kids!” I began to hustle down the walk way, but there was no way I would make it so I slowed my pace and began to watch the children react to the structure. I was overwhelmed as my long walk to freedom began with a host of South African school children. I watched them as they learned more about the man affectionately called “Madiba.”
The kids were calm, but inquisitive as we stood in front of this beautiful 20 foot tall steel portrait of Madiba. I walked beside them as they viewed the structure for the first time with awe. These children touched my heart and soul. I asked a young boy, who seemed enamored with the portrait, was this his first time at the site. He said, “yes.” Then I asked how he felt being there? His face lit up with the brightest smile I had ever seen. He said it made his heart dance. I was speechless. As we stood there engrossed by this mystically beautiful shrine, the children sang songs of cheer that flowed like effortless smiles. I am sure they were heard for miles. Although we were from two different worlds, these kids made me fall in love with the spirit of a human connection forged in the flame of joy and sadness as we stood on sacred ground.
On this day, I felt the soul of the new South Africa coming alive in its children as they honored a man who gave up his freedom to promote democracy for his family, his countrymen, and them. These children forever changed a square in my tapestry of life. These children make me believe in the truth and power of the human spirit. They are the soul of the new South Africa. #visitsouthafrica #soulhealing #heartandsoul