Nelson Mandela: South African Prisoner, Liberator and Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela: South African Prisoner, Liberator and Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa and served as his country’s first black President, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night at the age of 95.

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty, to the liberation underground, to a prison rock quarry, to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. When his first term in office was up, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease, but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk. And as president, from 1994 to 1999, he devoted much energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites with fears of vengeance. When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview in 2007: “After such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check?” His answer was almost dismissive: “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.

Read more about Nelson Mandela in the New York Times here.

Nelson Mandela Dies at 95: South Africa’s First Black President Remembered

The World Celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday

Mandela’s Campaign Against South African Apartheid

On August 5th, 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested after living in underground hiding for seventeen months, and was initially imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. He was imprisoned after being charged with involvement in planning armed action and a conspiracy to help other countries invade South Africa. The arrest was made possible because the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tipped off South African security police as to Mandela’s whereabouts and disguise. Mandela was later imprisoned on Robben Island, where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison.

In March 1982, Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, in part to enable discreet contact between him and the South African government. In 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk reversed the ban on anti-apartheid organizations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on February 11th, 1990, an event that was broadcast live all over the world.

South Africa’s first multi-racial elections were held on April 27th, 1994. The African National Congress won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on May 10th, 1994, as the country’s first Black President, with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy. As President from 1994 until 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Mandela’s leadership was recognized when he was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela’s London Arrival for the Birthday Celebrations

Nelson Mandela arrived in London on Monday, June 23rd, 2008, for a week of events to celebrate his 90th birthday. Mandela met with Queen Elizabeth II, as well as with a number of other high-profile celebrities who included Gordon Brown, the former U.S. president Bill Clinton and the talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. The outdoor concert in honor of the former South African President was scheduled to take place at Hyde Park, London, on Friday, June 29th, with performers including Amy Winehouse, Josh Groban, Annie Lennox, Leona Lewis, Queen and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Celebrating Mandela’s 90th Birthday: The 90th Birthday Concert

40,000 Fans Pay Tribute to Mandela

Will Smith charmed the huge 90th Birthday Concert crowd, and Amy Winehouse wowed them with her performance. However, Nelson Mandela proved to be the biggest star of all at the concert Friday in honor of the South African statesman’s 90th birthday.

Acts including Queen, Razorlight, Leona Lewis and a host of African stars joined more than 40,000 music fans for the outdoor show in London’s Hyde Park. Josh Groban and the Soweto Gospel Choir also performed at the event, which came 20 years after a 70th birthday concert for an absent Mandela at London’s Wembley Stadium. Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist, had at that point been imprisoned in South Africa for 25 years. He told Friday’s crowd that that concert made a big difference in his eventual release and the fight against the racist system, which was dismantled in the early 1990s.

Your voices carried across the water to inspire us in our prison cells far away,” said Mandela, who received the biggest cheers of the night. “We are honored to be back in London for this wonderful celebration.”

But even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete.”

Amy Winehouse Performs: Mandela’s 90th Birthday Concert

Josh Groban Performs at the Birthday Concert

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“Searching for Sugar Man,” Story of Musician Sixto Rodriguez, Wins Oscar for Best Documentary

Sixto Rodriguez: The Powerful Music of a Deeply Good Man

Searching for Sugar Man found an Oscar on Sunday night. The film, which traces the strange, almost unbelievable tale of Detroit folk musician Sixto Rodriguez from obscurity to international success, largely without his knowing, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film at Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez, 70, was not at the ceremony, “because he didn’t want to take any of the credit himself,” producer Simon Chinn explained from the Oscar stage while accepting the award. “And that just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know.”

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish/British documentary directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which follows the efforts of two Cape Town fans, Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumored death of Rodriguez was true, and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Previously, the film won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best International Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival. Malik Bendjelloul won the 2013 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary for Searching for Sugar Man.

The film tells the magical story of a gifted singer-songwriter from Detroit, who was an enigmatic mystery. His face half-hidden by long flowing hair and dark glasses, he sang in smoke-filled folk music bars, often with his back turned to the audience. His name was Sixto Rodriguez. In the late 1960’s, Rodriguez was so good that with neither fame nor a large fan base, he signed a two-album contract with Sussex and A&R Records. The first album, Cold Fact, got a rare four-star review from Billboard Magazine. However, neither it nor his second album, Coming From Reality, sold well, the contract was dropped and the story seemed to end there.

Nothing else was heard from Sixto Rodriguez. But several years later, his albums traveled half-way around the world, to Cape Town, South Africa, where bootleg copies passed from hand to hand and his songs became the storied anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. When an indie record store owner named Stephen Segerman released them commercially, they took off, the first selling 500,000 copies, which in that nation was comparable to the Beatles or Elvis Presley.

Searching for Sugar Man: The Official UK Trailer

Sixto Rodriguez: The Rock Icon Who Didn’t Know It

Sixty Minutes Overtime: Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez Performs “Crucify Your Mind” (David Letterman)

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Sixto Rodriguez: The Powerful Music of a Deeply Good Man

Sixto Rodriguez: The Powerful Music of a Deeply Good Man

Searching for Sugar Man is the magical story of a gifted singer-songwriter from Detroit, who was an enigmatic mystery. His face half-hidden by long flowing hair and dark glasses, he sang in smoke-filled folk music bars, often with his back turned to the audience. His name was Sixto Rodriguez.

In the late 1960’s, Rodriguez was so good that with neither fame nor a large fan base, he signed a two-album contract with Sussex and A&R Records. The first album, Cold Fact, got a rare four-star review from Billboard Magazine. However, neither it nor his second album, Coming From Reality, sold well, the contract was dropped and the story seemed to end there.

Nothing else was heard from Sixto Rodriguez. But several years later, his albums traveled half-way around the world, to Cape Town, South Africa, where bootleg copies passed from hand to hand and his songs became the storied anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. When an indie record store owner named Stephen Segerman released them commercially, they took off, the first selling 500,000 copies, which in that nation was comparable to the Beatles or Elvis Presley.

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish/British documentary directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which follows the efforts of two Cape Town fans, Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumored death of Rodriguez was true, and, if not, to discover what had become of him. The film won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best International Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival. Malik Bendjelloul won the 2013 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary for Searching for Sugar Man, which has also been nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film at the 2013 Academy Awards to be held in February 2013.

Searching for Sugar Man: The Official UK Trailer

Sixto Rodriguez: The Rock Icon Who Didn’t Know It

Sixty Minutes Overtime: Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez Performs “Crucify Your Mind” (David Letterman)

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The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa made history on Saturday morning, becoming the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics when he lined up for a first-round heat in the men’s 400 meters at London’s Olympic Stadium. The crowd saluted Pistorius with roars of encouragement; he sprinted to a second place finish in his heat in 45.46 seconds, a season-best time, and advanced to Sunday’s semifinals.

Pistorius reached the finish line after six lomg years of yearning to achieve a qualifying time and five years of scientific and legal arguments about whether his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage over sprinters using their natural legs.

Read more about the amazing achievements of Oscar Pistorius in the New York Times here.

Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

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Paul Simon Takes Us Back: Under African Skies

Paul Simon Takes Us Back: Under African Skies

Under African Skies is a brilliant, must-see documentary by the renowned filmmaker Joe Berlinger, which was created on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Paul Simon’s seminal album Graceland. The documentary won the 2012 SXSW Audience Award in the 24 Beats per Second Category and is the only music film to win an Audience Award. Berlinger intertwines both sides of a complex story as Simon returns to South Africa for a reunion concert with the original Graceland musicians, which unearths the turbulent birth of the album.

Paul Simon’s historic Graceland album sold millions of copies and united cultures, yet it also ended up dividing world opinion on the boundaries of art, politics and business. Despite its huge success as a popular fusion of American and African musical styles, Graceland spawned intense political debate. Simon was accused of breaking the United Nations’ cultural boycott of South Africa, which was designed to end apartheid.

While the album went on to be widely celebrated for its revolutionary mix of musical styles and for bringing the extraordinary gifts of under-exposed South African musicians to the forefront, many of the questions Graceland raised in 1986 remain. What is the role of the artist when society is in upheaval? Who does music belong to? Whose rules, if any, should artists play by? Do cultural collaborations matter? And what will be the legacy of Graceland’s indelible songs in a world that has since been politically, and musically, transformed?

Read more about Under African Skies in The New York Times here.

Paul Simon Takes Us Back: Under African Skies

Paul Simon: The Story of Graceland

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“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius Reaches 400 Meters Semi-Finals At World Championships

“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius Reaches 400m Semi-Finals At World Championships

“Blade runner” Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter running on carbon-fiber blades, passed his first test with flying colors on his debut at the 13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Pistorius swept past several able-bodied runners, finishing third in his heat to reach the semi-finals of the 400 meters Sunday. The South African, who has had to overcome huge legal and performance obstacles just to be allowed to race in Daegu, South Korea, on his prosthetic legs, delighted the crowd with a strong run of 45.39 seconds from an outside lane.

The crowd rose to the double amputee as he powered down the final straight before a band of his compatriots chanted “Oscar! Oscar!” to confirm the 24-year-old as one of the sentimental favorites of the championships. Describing his landmark race as a great relief, especially after the disruption of a false start by another of the runners, Pistorius said he had fulfilled a long-held ambition.

After he crossed the line, Pistorius gave an appreciative bow to the South Korean crowd of about 10,000 for its cheers and support. After the race, Pistorius said, “I have worked extremely hard to be here” “It has been phenomenal to run. It has been a lot of pressure in the race, and there is a lot of work for tomorrow.” “It was a great opportunity for me to have a chance to run, this is a goal I’ve had for many, many years,” he told reporters. “I really don’t feel like a pioneer but I’m very honored to be in the position I am in . I hope to write a few more chapters, I’m still young.”

World Athletics 2011: Pistorius Reaches 400m Semi-Finals

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

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The Poetics of Hope: A Wish for Peace in Our Time

Dove of Peace: Pablo Picasso, Lithograph (1949)

Playing For Change: Song Around the World-“Stand By Me”

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