Publishers have been scrambling onto the shelves with books commemorating the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, and uncovering some great new material along the way.
One of the best is I Remember Nelson Mandela published by Jacana and edited by Vimla Naidoo and Sahm Venter. It’s a smart little hardback with beautiful endpapers copied from the fabric design of one of Madiba’s shirts, and has a foreword by Graça Machel, whose idea the book was. It gathers together anecdotes and remembrances from people who worked with, for and beside Mandela, from household staff and bodyguards to advisors and secretaries.
It’s a rich seam of small and telling stories, many of them unheard before. For instance, Shiraz Moosa was a bodyguard for Mandela after his release from prison.
“Whenever we took him into a crowd we always had to be on the look-out for children and babies,” he said. “Because the minute he saw a child or a baby, all protocol was out of the window… we had to protect him from the love of the people, not from people wanting to hurt him.”
Sahm Venter has also edited The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela (Penguin Random House), the first, and only authorised and authenticated collection of correspondence spanning the 27 years of his incarceration.
Illustrated with facsimiles and generously annotated, the letters provide new insight into his life behind bars and how he kept up his spirits during those long and lonely years.
Kate Sidley read every book she could find about Mandela before composing her book 100 Mandela Moments (Jonathan Ball Publishers).
Sidley has an eye for the warmest and most humorous moments, as well as the momentous. Here he is eating melktert with Betsie Verwoerd in Orania, on his feet dancing to Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the Royal Box with the Queen of England, and donning an “HIV POSITIVE” T-shirt in support of TAC activists campaigning for the rollout of antiretrovirals.
Jonathan Ball Publishers have also released Mandela - His Essential Life by Lord Peter Hain. The veteran anti-apartheid campaigner takes a close look at the life and legacy of Mandela, and analyses the state of the ANC then and now.
Another view entirely of the former president comes in The Madiba Appreciation Club: A Chef’s Story by Brett Ladds (Jonathan Ball Publishers).
Ladds was executive chef and manager of the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, and recounts tales of Madiba’s favourite champagne (Pêche Royale) and endless cups of rooibos tea, as well as telling entertaining stories of kings, queens and rock stars and the Saudi-Arabian sheik who had eight television sets installed in his room and bought 20 blankets at R5,000 each for his stay.
Ndaba Mandela provides an intimate family point of view in Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from my Grandfather Nelson Mandela (Penguin Books). The young Mandela was 11 when he was invited to live with his grandfather. Slowly they built a relationship that would affect both of them profoundly.
Mandela’s daughter Zinzi sits down with her grandchildren Zazi and Ziwelene to answer their questions about her father. Illustrated by Sean Qualls, Grandad Mandela is a delightful and inspiring collection. (Lincoln Children’s Books).
And finally, Tafelberg has compiled Mandela’s favourite children’s stories in Madiba Magic, an enchanting kaleidoscope of tales told around the fires, tales of the San and Khoi people, of animals and mystical trees and Cloud Princesses. Charming.