Posts tagged ‘south africa’

December 12, 2013

How travellers can go in search of Nelson Mandela

nelson-mandela-bust-capetown

A bust of a youthful Nelson Mandela adorns the famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Capetown, three kilometres from Robben Island. On Thursday, Mandela passed away at age 95. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

[This article first appeared on Vacay.ca on December 5, 2013, the day Nelson Mandela died.]

Naively, I arrived in South Africa three years ago thinking it would be difficult to find anyone in the nation who didn’t love Nelson Mandela. The first person who I interviewed taught me a lesson. “I didn’t like Mandela much,” said the man, a former diplomat who asked not to be identified when he spoke about his political career. He was present with Mandela at numerous high-level meetings in the 1990s, during the leader’s presidency. “Behind closed doors, he had little tolerance for dissent or opposing views. But I do respect him, tremendously. How could anyone not?”

So, I was asking the wrong question. For all the idolatry around him, Mandela was human and susceptible to the range of emotions as everyone else. Rather than inquiring about the ubiquitous of adoration for him, I should have sought a person in the nation who didn’t appreciate what he did for South Africans of all ethnicities. Such a person I didn’t find; however, somewhere there must exist a dissenter, a boorish individual opposed to the ideas of anti-apartheid and the Rainbow Nation. Largely, though, South Africa is a nation of Mandela acolytes, white, brown, and black.

“It’s like meeting an angel,” Sebastien Qweshe, a driver at the posh Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg told me about his encounter with the Nobel laureate.

Maria Sekwane, a member of the African National Congress, remembered February 11, 1990, when Mandela was released after 27 years in prison, as a night of unmatched celebration. “We sang and we danced, but we were also expecting that we would soon have to fight,” she recalled. “For days we were collecting money to buy guns and then Mandela said each and every gun must go into the sea. We couldn’t believe it. But he insisted that had to be the way. That we could not look backward and that had to happen for the country to go forward.”

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April 6, 2012

Excerpt from my new novel “Triumph the Lion” on CJSF Radio

In Chapter 2 of my new novel “Triumph the Lion,” the protagonist meets the story’s love interest, a photographer named Maria who has come to South Africa to document a lion with a peculiar trait. Blu, the Toronto-raised safari ranger, is immediately fascinated by Maria because of her beauty as well as the un-Canadian way she introduces herself.
I had the chance to read an excerpt from the book on KP Wee’s show “Smitten with the Written” on CJSF Radio (90.1 FM) in Vancouver last week. Prior to continuing with “Triumph the Lion,” KP and I talked about character development in fiction, and some techniques writers can incorporate to make sure they develop well-rounded protagonists, villains and supporting characters. Among the topics discussed are the use of inventive dialogue, the importance of conflict in storytelling and the necessity to employ action to reveal the truth about the characters you create.

Listen now to Excerpts 5 and 6 from “Triumph the Lion”:

Click here for Excerpt 5, which is after a 10-minute interview about character development in fiction.
Click here for Excerpt 6, which is more from Chapter 2 of the novel.

Click on the links below to hear Excerpts 3 and 4.

Click here for Excerpt 3, continuation of Chapter 2 (following interview)
Click here for Excerpt 4, also a continuation of Chapter 2

Chapter 1 and the first half of Chapter 2 are available here:

Click here for Part 1, Chapter 1 (following interview).
Click here for Part 2, start of Chapter 2.

January 25, 2012

More from “Triumph the Lion” — my new novel — on CJSF Radio

In “Triumph the Lion,” a Toronto-born safari ranger in South Africa makes a peculiar lion so famous tourists from around the world venture to the jungle to catch a glimpse of it. The lion becomes such an object of obsession, however, that some visitors arrive wanting much more than a photograph for their Facebook page. With a bounty suddenly on its head, the lion must struggle for survival while the man who made him a celebrity seeks to interfere with the plot to kill the animal. In his quest to do so, the ranger named Blu is joined by his African friend, Shamrock, and Maria, a visiting photographer from Canada who may be the one person in Kruger Park more interested in the man who made the lion a star than in the beast itself.

Click on the links below to hear Excerpts 3 and 4 from the novel, which were read on CJSF Radio (90.1 FM) in Vancouver last week. There’s a 10-minute interview with me that runs before the storytelling begins.

Click here for Excerpt 3, continuation of Chapter 2 (following interview)
Click here for Excerpt 4, also a continuation of Chapter 2

Chapter 1 and the first half of Chapter 2 are available here:

Click here for Part 1, Chapter 1 (following interview).
Click here for Part 2, start of Chapter 2.

July 18, 2011

On Nelson Mandela Day, remembering a Robben Island visit

Nelson Mandela cell on Robben Island

Tourists flock to Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island, a ferry ride away from Cape Town. (Julia Pelish photo)

[This article about Nelson Mandela’s overwhelming presence in South Africa was published in the Toronto Star in June 2010, just prior to the start of the World Cup. Here it is again, on Mandela’s 93rd birthday.]

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA—On top of everything else, Nelson Mandela could probably provide the most compelling argument there is against capital punishment. Convicted of treason and terrorism against South Africa in 1964, Mandela would likely have been executed were it not for international pressure to spare his life. The thought of a world without Mandela and his astounding magnanimity is sad; the thought of a South Africa without him is enough to cause a shiver.

Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 with every reason to chase vengeance. Instead, he chose a divine path of forgiveness and reconciliation that lifted the country out of apartheid and showed the world the power of grace. Now, his name has become an industry in South Africa.

You can see where he was born, the home where he lived prior to his arrest, the location where he was taken into custody, the university that bears his name, some of the houses he now owns and, of course, the place with which he is most identified: Robben Island, the 12-square-kilometre dot of sand and limestone where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years of incarceration.

The island off the coast of Cape Town became known as Mandela University, because the lawyer would educate both inmates and prison guards. Tours that include a round-trip ferry ride and a discussion by a former prisoner cost 400 rand (about $55). From those ex-inmates, you learn about the degradation of apartheid that occurred inside the prison too, where the subordination of black political prisoners was constantly reinforced. Prisoners who were Indian or mixed race, for example, would be given six ounces of meat with their dinner, the blacks five.

Mandela’s prison cell attracts a crowd, making it the only lock-up in the world people are eager to get into. They can’t; its bars remain shut but visitors can step into a similarly cramped pen a few cells down the tight hallway that fills with echoes. Just about everyone who walks in spreads their arms to get a sense of the space. You’ve been in walk-in closets that are larger.

“I could walk the length of my cell in three paces,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. “When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete at the other side.”

When you leave Robben Island, you can stop at the gift shop to purchase Mandela merchandise, including a “presidential collection” line of shirts similar to those he wore during his presidency. Another set of fashion blares “466/64”, his prison number. It indicates he was the 466th prisoner to arrive on Robben Island in 1964.

While Mandela or his lawyers approved the sale of goods at Robben Island, not everything tied to his life has his support. On the contrary, he’s often said his name is not for sale. But as his legacy builds the potential for him to be exploited grows.

“There’s a lot of people in the country making money off of his name and he’s not seeing any of it, his children’s foundation isn’t getting any of it,” says Tanya Kotze, owner of Africa Direct, one of the country’s leading travel agencies. “I wish they would let the old man be.”

No one seems ready to let go of him, however. South Africans are delighted with even a glimpse of Mandela these days, when politicians are carrying on in ways that would be laughable if the nation wasn’t on a precipice.

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July 14, 2010

Soccer and History Mix in Soweto

[From the Toronto Star, June 12, 2010]

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—Gloria Pikitsha stands at the corner of her old high school and recalls the moments before the first gunshot. It was June 16, 1976, when white police officers came to Orlando West High School in Soweto to stare down several thousand black students who’d had enough. One side was armed with rocks and recklessness, the other lethal artillery and the imperviousness apartheid allowed.

Voices escalated, the rocks exchanged fire with bullets and Gloria ran home to hide under a bed. The fighting ratcheted up, the army joined the police and before the Soweto uprising was beaten down a day and a half later, hundreds of children had died in one of the grimmest episodes of South Africa’s bleak and bloody era.

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