Beginnings and endings

It is that time of the year where I slowly become more grinchified from carols and other stuffs.

But never you mind, in 2 weeks time I will be home in the sun with my beloved puppy old dame, avoiding bees in the grass and talking philosophy and sport with my parents. I find myself really wanting a dog again. I can’t have one in the apartment, but oh – to have a dog again… One day.

No, we’ve got to that time of the year where knitting (and now reading) really begins. And I have managed to cast on 2 new projects even though I have 3 I really need to finish. Oh dear. I’m also breaking out the stash and using those lovely skeins of yarn that have just been sitting, waiting for a rainy day. Well. It’s a waste not to use them and enjoy them, so damnit, that’s what I’m going to do. (and then comes the question – what do I take home with me. And which books… Yes, this is going to take two weeks to sort out. Because the combination will change several times.) And I’m getting my knitting mojo back. I’ve been struggling for a while, but suddenly there’s so much to knit, and so little time… Mmmm. Yarn.

But what has really made me jump for joy is that I’m finally able to talk about this brilliant thing that happened when I was in Melbourne for the Nick Cave concert in March. Becky pulled out this sock she’d just designed and finished in this beautiful Knitsch Sock Dr Who colourway 9th Rose. It was, to all intents and purposes, a perfect pattern. And the yarn! And everything about it screamed show me to the world! I remember looking at it, and looking at Becky, and saying “you need to submit this to Knitty”. She grinned, having been thinking the same thing. And after a little more nudging, she did. A few days ago, after needing to keep very quiet for months about it, this happened, and I can finally be openly very, very proud of my amazing fairy godmother and her awesome sock pattern. And now I can start this one too. (In Knitsch as well, of course).

Both Becky and the ineffable Kylie have done some amazing things this year. And for all I’ve been through, it’s been great to have them on the other end of FB/gmail/etc – I really love it when my friends do well and get the recognition they deserve. These two ladies rock, so I will continue to shout their collective brilliance from the rooftops of this little corner of the world.

But while there is celebrating creative brilliance, it was also an end of an era this week, as our dear Madiba finally passed away after months on a respirator. And he is our dear Madiba. Even though I am a kiwi now, I was in South Africa in 1990.

I remember it was windy and clouds scudding overhead while I watched another part of the city on TV and Mandela walk out of prison in Paarl and drive into Cape Town. I remember having the television on during class for the first general election on the 27th April 1994, and Mandela’s inauguration 2 weeks later. I remember when we got a new flag, a new national anthem, and hope. And then there was 24 June 1995 when the Rainbow Nation was truly born, and the mastery and magic of Madiba was shown at his best.

It was at Ellis Park, and the Springboks were playing the All Blacks in the RWC World Cup Final. We were four years out of having sanctions lifted, and we had made the finals at home. The feeling around the country was electric. And then Madiba walked out into the middle of the field wearing a Springbok rugby jersey with the number 6 on the back – the captain Francois Pienaar’s number – and the country went ballistic. And then, in extra time, the unthinkable happened. Joel Stransky slotted a drop goal and we won. And suddenly, for a little while, colour didn’t matter to anybody any more.

I was in the Eastern Cape with my cousins – where things were still very regimented (In Cape Town, we were far more liberal than quite a significant amount of the country at that time) – but we all celebrated. There was dancing in the houses and dancing in the street. Our team had put us through punishing hell, but when Pienaar and Mandela held aloft the cup, “us” and the “we” was all that mattered. When the Bafana Bafana won the African Cup of Nations in 1996, it was the same. It was “us” and “we” – and Mandela was there to hand over the trophy as well.

It shows how much of an impact he made that in every sports team, in every code, in every country, all the players are wearing black arm bands. All the flags across the capital, and indeed, the world are flying at half mast. We have had many months to prepare for this, but still it is a shock. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend reading both Playing the Enemy and Long Walk to Freedom.

Madiba was a remarkable man. He shows how a single person can change a nation. But I’m fairly sure he would cringe at being called a saint and a blameless individual who was falsely incarcerated by an unjust system as the world’s media is spruiking in his death. He co-founded the ANC’s militant youth branch, and while being acquitted for treason, was found guilty for sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government. What he did, organised, and authorised, were acts of terrorism, and if he had been given the death sentence as originally planned, that would have been the end of the story.

But it was life imprisonment instead, and while he was prepared to die for his beliefs, it was his strength of character, charisma, and determination, that kept him going, that kept the fight for equality alive, and eventually led to his triumph. Having spent so long away from life and living, he certainly made up for it in what he achieved in these 23 years after his release. What he did for South Africa, and for the world will remain unmatched. I think the only person who may even begin to understand the what’s and why’s of Mandela is Aung San Suu Kyi.

But while Madiba gave South Africans hope, the clouds began to gather after he finished his single term as president, and while there may be a call for a lasting legacy, we can only hope that this wish is heeded. He has been the only thing keeping things in line in southern African politics for a long time, and now that he as gone, things could get messy. I hope that this isn’t going to be the case, and I fear for the land of my birth, but I am grateful that I lived and experienced history on the inside, and outside, of that beautiful country, and I thank Madiba for all that he did for us. He will be missed.

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