I was 14 years old when Nelson Mandela became my President, but he wasn’t my hero, not back then. He was just a tiny blip on my radar, and I had absolutely no idea that he was a global icon. I think as a child growing up I paid so little attention to South African history and the evolving “Rainbow Nation” because I felt guilty of the sins of my homeland’s past.
The Apartheid struggle was never against whites – it was against white supremacy, that teeny tiny minority that had nothing to do with me. However, collective guilt that results in no action at all is still no excuse.
My failure was that I didn’t speak up sooner for human rights, that I allowed myself to be ignorant. It was only after I left South Africa for the first time in the year 2000 that I began to see the world and all the different threads that make up the DNA of humankind, and then I realised just how connected we all are.
Madiba went into hospital with a recurring lung infection on the 8th June, and as the weeks went by I became more and more homesick. Here I was in New Zealand, on the other side of the world, and I suddenly felt very detached from my homeland that was once again uniting.
Nelson Mandela. I had no idea I could be so emotional over someone I had never met before.
And so I turned my attention to two projects I’m currently working on, TEDxAuckland and the Global Citizen Concert Aotearoa.
Both of my stories came out today, in honour of Mandela Day, Madiba’s 95th birthday, and a call to action for everyone to donate 67 minutes of their time to doing something good for their community. That’s one minute for every year in his struggle for human rights.
TEDxAuckland – My interview with ex Prime Minister Helen Clark, reflecting on Mandela Day and the threads of history that bind will bind New Zealand and South Africa forever.
Global Citizen Concert – Honouring Nelson Mandela as the ultimate Global Citizen and my reflections on the day Madiba’s publisher gave me his book Conversations with Myself – a sort of swan song memoir that has had a profound effect on me.
Mandela Day is just one day, but to truly understand the person Nelson Mandela is to want to strive to inherit the qualities and values he stood for: Compassion, humility and kindness. And there is no short cut to being a good human.
And so for Mandela Day I’ve chosen to look forward, and a year from now I can reflect back on this new journey I am about to embark on. For some time now I have had my eye on a new project in Nicaragua, the land of poetry and revolution. It’s a social tourism project in a small village on the west coast where a group of whole hearted people are working together to build school facilities for an orphanage, making “bricks” out of plastic bottles and sand, and already they’ve managed to get solar cookers, medicine and a fire trucks donated!
I fly to Nicaragua in two weeks. I’m going to be gone a long time, and I hope I can be useful and find new ways to help with the mission. All I am sure of is what I will gain from this experience is priceless, because I can’t imagine anything more valuable than having the opportunity to make a positive impact in the life of a child.
The video above captures moments from one of the best days/nights of my life in South Africa. Representing my brand Global Breakthrough, our tribe of DJs and supporters descended on the township of Gugulethu and we danced our hearts out all afternoon with the locals. Actually we were having so much fun that Oskido, known as the godfather of South African dance music, decided to miss his flight home. A week later we did it all over again, but this time turning heads (and minds) at the after party to Cape Town Fashion week in partnership with Darkie clothing. Good times, yebo!