A crowd gathered in Prince’s Park on the morning of 11th February to hear Dr Makaziwi ‘Maki’ Mandela and Tukwini Mandela bless the new monument to the renowned humanitarian icon, Nelson Mandela.
On the 29-year anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison, the arrival of Dr. Maki and Tukwini, Mandela’s daughter and granddaughter, attracted a diverse group. Primary school children stood alongside journalists, as Mayor Joe Anderson greeted representatives of the local charity, Mandela8.
Mandela8 and the Prince’s Park memorial
Following the death of Nelson Mandela in 2013, the educational charity Mandela8 was formed to honour the legacy of Mandela and foster community cohesion and education in Liverpool.
Lynn Collins, the ex-chair of Mandela8 said;
“The campaign began to think about a way in which we could, in the city, commemorate Mandela’s life and celebrate the principles from which he lived.”
Wanting more than a statue, Mandela8 commissioned Wayward, a landscape design company for the important task. Their memorial will consist of ‘Freedom Bridge’, connecting the lake’s island to the rest of the park. 32 cylindrical stone works have also been commissioned to echo the oil drums Mandela used for his roof top allotment during his time in Pollsmoor Prison.
Sonia Bassey, chair of Mandela8, led the event as the crowd gathered on the sunny lakeside. Mayor Joe Anderson welcomed Dr. Maki and Tukwini to Liverpool.
Following the speeches, Mayor Anderson summarised what the Mandela visit means to the city of Liverpool;
“This is a city that has always fought for equality and justice. I was in the Merchant Navy and I visited South Africa and witnessed apartheid. In those days we had the dockers to transport workers. The seamen were supporting the ANC (African National Congress), fighting against the injustice of apartheid. So many, many people from this community, here in Liverpool 8 and around, supported those people that fought against the apartheid regime.”
The blessing of Dr Maki Mandela
In her blessing of the new memorial site, Dr Maki Mandela delivered a moving message;
“I think that the memorial garden that will be open here, should be a reminder to all of us that we all have it in our hands to change the world. It is not a single person that can change the world. Mandela, my father, could not have done it alone.”
She thanked the city of Liverpool and linked the work of Mandela8 to the Be the Legacy Project, which is run in South Africa;
“I would like to say to the Liverpool city and to Mandela8 – continue the good work that you are doing. Because what you are doing here, in this garden, is also what we are doing as a family in South Africa. We are planning the Freedom Garden so that people can visit where my father is lying. They can be reminded that unless we are free all over the world, none of us are free.”
Dr Maki closed her speech with a warning, subtly linking the current political climate to the revolutionary activism of her father;
“We really need to, at this point where there is a resurgence of emphasising difference around the world, I think we need to fight very hard so that we don’t roll back the gains that have been made so far. Because the future doesn’t lie in us fighting amongst ourselves. The future for this planet lies in us collaborating and working with each other across boundaries, across age, across racial differences.”
Mandela and the next generation
Phillip Jennings, secretary general for UNI Global Union, also spoke at the event. He used his speech to remind us that we must keep fighting global injustice. In the spirit of Mandela’s activism, Jennings called for the release of the refugee Bahraini football player from Thai prison.
Speaking primarily to the young children patiently standing in the front row, Jennings said;
“May all that visit here be touched by Solidarity. May you visit this island and say, yes, I can make a change to the world.”
Inspired by the words of Dr Maki Mandela, the focus upon the next generation is at the very heart of the Mandela8 campaign and memorial.
During her powerful speech, Dr Maki stated;
“My Dad was very much interested in the young people because they represent the future. And I think that if we can teach the young people to care about each other, because if all of us can just touch the heart of another, we would not actually hate another person and we would not discriminate against another person. We are different, but in our difference, there is unity and there is comradery amongst all of us. I think those are the values we must enhance and move forward into the future.”
As Dr Maki paused for breath, the crowd enthusiastically applauded her commanding statement. After Dr Maki’s speech, Lynn Collins reiterated the importance of passing on Mandela’s principles;
“The Mandela Foundation in South Africa have a campaign called Be the Legacy. It’s about teaching young people the principles by which Mandela lived his life. He believed in equality and social justice and passing those principles onto the next generation and making sure that everyone believes that they can change the world.”
“The reason that the garden is laid out the way it is, is so that it can be used as an outdoor classroom. We can bring school children along and they can learn about Mandela, his life and his legacy, using the memorial as part of that. The educational program is the next stage of our campaign and that’s going to be really important to get that up and running.”
The attending school children spoke a verse in unison. Standing on the edge of the lake, overlooking what will now be known as Mandela Island, it was easy to imagine how the site will be influential to many young children in years to come.
Students to visit memorial
We won’t have to wait very long until the memorial is ready for visiting. Mayor Joe Anderson confirmed the time of completion;
“September, October time is when hopefully it will be finished and complete. I’ve seen some pictures and some designs – it looks amazing. I am looking forward to coming to the official opening.”
As the event drew to a close and the various participants mingled with the press, Lynn Collins had some final words for the students of Liverpool;
“My message is to explore the city. Visit the Prince’s Park and see the memorial. Think about how you can link into that memorial. Think about the stuff that you can do to bring about a better world through your studies or through your time in Liverpool. Try to really enjoy the sense of community while you are here.”