Nelson Mandela

Topics: Nelson Mandela, South Africa, Johannesburg Pages: 18 (5624 words) Published: March 13, 2011
1.1 Introduction
Nelson Mandela is one of, if not the, most famous African person(s) today. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July, 1918 in the little village of Mvezo in Qunu in southern Transkei, South Africa, into the royal family of the Tembu, a Xhosa-speaking tribe. He is one of 13 children and the youngest of four boys in his family. I admire him greatly as he was responsible for creating the most noted turning point in American history in the form of the Civil Rights Movement. ( 1.2 The Early Years

Nelson Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (1880–1927) was chief councilor to the paramount chief or king of the Thembu people. Xhosa nobility have three “Houses,” a Great House from which rulers are traced, the Right Hand House, and a minor or Left Hand House. Mandela was born into the Right Hand House and in this regard was very much part of the Xhosa royal family, although his descent-line was not that of the ruler. Moreover, he was only the youngest of four sons. However, Gadla, as chief advisor to the king, played an important part in decisions, notably in a dispute in 1924 that was to have an important bearing on Nelson Mandela’s life. Gadla was headman of Mvezo village, in which capacity he chaired community meetings and local ceremonies. He also served in the Bhunga, a purely advisory council overseen by the white government. Given this social prominence, Mandela’s father was a custodian of Thembu and Xhosa history, and he imparted to his son many stirring narratives of African history. Physically speaking, he also inherited his father’s tall and dignified bearing.

Mandela’s mother, Nonqaphi Nosekeni Fanny, was the third of his father’s four wives. Xhosa men would take more than one wife in accordance with their prosperity, also indicated by the number of cattle they owned, cattle being the most important form of wealth, used for bride wealth, or dowry payment, upon marriage. Nosekeni had an important formative influence on her son. Mandela later recalled that his mother was his “first real friend.” She related to him Xhosa moral tales and legends and, after becoming a Christian and taking the name “Fanny,” she duly ensured that the Methodist (Wesleyan) Church baptized her son. Mandela had three sisters, Baliwe, Notancu (Mabel), and Makhutswana. His father also had three sons and six daughters by other wives. As a boy, Mandela delighted in playing with them traditional games and sports, such as stick-fighting, riding animals, and making toys. Many African cultures feature extended family structures, with sons and daughters of uncles and aunts considered as brothers and sisters, not cousins. Mandela’s extended family was no exception. His sister Mabel Notancu Ntimakhwe, when interviewed in the 1980s and 1990s, recalled Rolihlahla as a serious young boy even then, with “leadership qualities,” and whom people recognized as bright. Another younger sister, Leabie, remembers that at the time, his sisters called him “Buti.”. The stick fighting game of boys encouraged a sense of honor or magnanimity in victory without dishonoring an opponent, a principle that would guide Mandela in later life: “I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonoring them.”

At seven years of age, Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend a school, where he was given the name "Nelson," after the British admiral Horatio Nelson, by a Methodist teacher who found his native name difficult to pronounce. When Mandela was nine, his father died of tuberculosis, and the regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian. Mandela attended a Wesleyan mission school located next to the palace of the regent. Following Thembu custom, he was initiated at the age of sixteen, and attended Clarkebury...
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