On the auspicious occasion of the ninetieth birthday of Nelson Mandela today, I would like to recall a great leader and hero, not only to all South Africans, but to all humanity.
I remember meeting Nelson Mandela briefly in 1994, when my television puppet interviewer, Clarence Keyter, a popular green-skinned bespectacled news reporter in his natty moustache, suit and purple bow-tie, interviewed Mandela during South Africa's first democratic election, which finally brought an end to the Apartheid era.
It was truly an incredible event which took place at the Johannesburg Railway Station. While conducting interviews of the politicians during the election week, we rushed to see Mandela off on the 'Peace Train' which would take the African National Congress leaders to the launch of their political manifesto and Mandela's subsequent declaration as President. It was complete chaos trying to fight through hundreds of journalists and security guards and get to Mandela's compartment and finally interview him. I carried a very determined puppet that caused the crowds to part, while he shouted orders, a bit like Moses parting the Red Sea. When we finally reached Mandela, I recall his complete calmness and a feeling of peace, amidst the turmoil that surrounded him. It was an experience I'll never forget. Happy birthday Madiba!
You can watch a short extract of puppet Clarence's Mandela interview here!
(photo credit: Nan Melville, NY)