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Ode to Nelson Mandela: 10 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about

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“The greatest glory in living is not in falling, but in rising every time we fall.”- Nelson Mandela

July 18 marked the birth anniversary of South Africa’s first black president, anti-Apartheid icon and Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela.

A revolutionary, political leader and a philanthropist, Nelson Mandela served as the president from the year 1994 to 1999 as the first democratically elected representative.

Born on July 18, 1918, in British South Africa, he was a student of law and joined as a lawyer in Johannesburg. It was there where he became involved in African nationalist politics and anti-colonialism.

 

 

 

United Nations in November 2009, officially declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day or Mandela Day every year as a recognition to Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity in conflict resolution, gender equality, reconciliation, children and other vulnerable group rights, promotion of social justice, fight against poverty and many more.

Mandela’s contributions to the freedom struggle are well known. On his 101th birth anniversary, let us dig a little to find out some of his lesser-known facts.

  • Nelson Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla. A Xhosa term, which actually meant ‘pulling the branch of a tree’ and colloquially meant ‘troublemaker.’
  • Mandela was a master of disguise. While eluding authorities during his fight against apartheid he disguised himself in various ways and was nicknamed by the press as ‘the Black Pimpernel.’

 

 

 

  • Besides politics, Mandela was also passionate about boxing. In his biography he states, “I did not like the violence of boxing. I was more interested in the science of it – how you move your body to protect yourself, how you use a plan to attack and retreat, and how you pace yourself through a fight.”
  • He left South Africa in the year 1962 and during these years he received guerilla training in Morocco and Ethiopia.
  • In the 1992 biopic Malcom X by Spike Lee, Mandela had a cameo which was later cut off.
  • Mandela and many other members of the African National Congress were in the US terror watch list till 2008. It was because of their militant fight against apartheid that they were placed on that list.
  • The lines “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of the soul” from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley resonated with Mandela so much that he would read this poem while he was in prison.

 

 

 

  • It was in prison from 1962 to 1990 where Mandela wrote a secret autobiography. The contents of his prison writings were later published in 1994 as a book entitled Long Walk to Freedom.
  • Mandela has an orchid (Paravanda Nelson Mandela), nuclear particle (the ‘Mandela particle’) and a prehistoric woodpecker (Australopicus nelsonmandelai) named after him.
  • Mandela also raised awareness about AIDS, a virus that ravaged scores of Africans including his own son Makgatho who died from the complications of the virus in 2005.

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