Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

The Meaning of Mandela: A Literary and Intellectual Celebration

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

The Meaning of Mandela: A Literary and Intellectual Celebration

Article excerpt

The Meaning of Mandela: A Literary and Intellectual Celebration; edited by Xolela Mangcu. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council, 2006, 64 pp. ISBN 0-7969-2164-4.

This is a little book of three speeches made to commemorate Nelson Mandela's 87th birthday, and they are a quirky though somewhat brilliantly human bunch. In a sense, they are the reminiscences of three forbears of black pride and thought, paying respect to their own forbear - except that Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s respect is directed even more towards WEB Du Bois and, to a certain extent, towards himself for the struggle he endured to actualise Du Bois' vision of what became the Encyclopedia Africana. This is a natural byproduct of the great and old reminiscing - they tell the tale and they are in the tale. They would not want me to put it like this, but it is endearing.

And it is also indeed quirky - except that, in the week in which I learnt that the "guilty pleasure" of the controversial Islamic thinker, Tariq Ramadan, descendant of the founders of the Islamic Brotherhood, is rap music - the image of Cornel West, described by the editor, Xolela Mangcu, "boogying into the wee hours in one of Johannesburg's happening nightclubs", with the "young people" loving it, is perhaps not so strange. West had, of course, his famous argument with the President of Harvard over Wesf s own recording of a rap CD, and the book allows the speakers to celebrate their youthful if lingering rebellious affectations. Gates had, by his own account, a "big Afro that would make Cornel Wesf s Afro look like a crew cut". Gates at least no longer has such a hair-style, though Wole Soyinka does. After Gates and West, Soyinka is the last author, or speech-maker, in this collection. His account is the most directly related to Mandela as himself a quirky person and as a great and compassionate leader. …

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