Tag: apartheid

Remembering Madiba

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Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)

It was early one evening when I was leaving work, and I walked out through the turnstiles at the entrance to the foyer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Suddenly, I became aware of a buzz of electricity in the space, and my eyes were drawn to a phalanx of men, with one, tall, striking figure in the center. I had heard of charisma but never experienced it so forcefully before. He was just walking, swiftly, and looking straight ahead, but his magnetism was palpable. It was Nelson Mandela. Once he had passed through the entrance en route to the studios, the foyer felt bereft, flat, colorless. I thought of this moment when I learned of his death. It is not too much to say that a light has gone out in the world with his passing.

The other time I was in Mandela’s presence was at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg, renowned for having been a non-racial theatre at the height of apartheid. The occasion was the 1993 awards ceremony for the prestigious CNA literary prize. As each winner in each category was announced, Mandela, dressed in one of his signature silk, batik, Madiba shirts, stood up to engage them in an intimate and private conversation. No surprise, he won the major award for his autobiography Long Road to Freedom that year, but his gracious warmth to all the nominees clearly made every one of them feel singular.

Out of Africa

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Tonight at 7, at Atomic Books in Hampden, two authors share readings from their celebrated new books set in Africa. Susi Wyss’s ultra-readable The Civilized World, a Novel in Stories (Holt Paperbacks), follows five women, black and white, as they confront obstacles great and small, in a quest to find balance, even happiness. Wyss, who works in public health, was inspired by her aid work in Africa; the interwoven stories are set in five African countries and in the U.S. Booklist notes, “Whether in Africa or America, the characters in Wyss’ linked stories navigate a world ‘that could knock you off your feet when you least suspected it.’ Wyss grants her appealing characters a mesmerizing mixture of fresh starts, second chances, forgiveness and redemption.” Glen Reteif’s The Jack Bank: A Memoir of a South African Childhood (St. Martin’s Press) tells the story of a difficult boyhood spent in a strict all-male boarding school world, and of Reteif’s coming of age at the close of apartheid in the late 70s, while also coming to the realization that he was gay. Robert Olen Butler calls The Jack Bank, “[A] memoir with the deeply resonant power of the finest fiction.” Baltimore-based fiction writer Kathy Flann hosts the event.

7 p.m.
3620 Falls Road

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