Art Books

By Vanessa Friedman
"Nelson Mandela clearly took clothes - and their power - seriously, and perhaps we should, too". 
Example, Jerry Bird, Publisher and Editor of Africa Travel Magazine will wear often  a "Madiba shirt" and African hats with pride in Africa, USA and Canada.
Almost a month after the death of Nelson Mandela, every talking head has sighed in with their own memoir or eulogy so what is there to add? Fair question

Let me simply say that this is a new year’s column – a look forward, not a look back – and it is about a lesson I think worth taking from Mandela and applying in 2014, a lesson not included in the many “Lessons from Mandela” written in recent weeks. Most of these were concerned with choosing reconciliation over revolution, while this is to do with clothes. It may seem like a frivolous topic where someone such as Mandela is concerned, except he clearly took clothes – and their power – seriously, and perhaps we should, too. 
Picture any G8 or even G20 meeting and, women aside, there is a startling homogeneity to the dress, the theory being that those who dress alike, negotiate alike. As the former Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla was quoted as saying: “Nelson Mandela dared to wear batik in the UN General Assembly. If it was me, then I might still hesitate to wear batik and speak in the UN General Assembly, but he did not.”In a world where leaders rarely stray from an accepted uniform, no matter where they live – dark suit, white or blue shirt, red or blue tie – Mandela stood out in his colourful batik shirts. They not only made him visible wherever he went but served a variety of more covert purposes: advertising his independence from what went before, underscoring his allegiance with the traditions of his country and providing a form of outreach to minority groups that each interpreted in their own way.
More than any leader I can think of, Mandela demonstrated how clothes can be a strategic expression of individuality, even for a politician. And he did it without adopting another widely used uniform, the military jacket – the general default option ever since Napoleon.
Consider the fact, however, that, when he was elected, Mandela wore a suit and tie just like every other man in his position. It was only after a few months that he began to wear batik – and wear it, and wear it, to the extent that it became so synonymous with his image that it took his name (the “Madiba” shirt), and when Giorgio Armani offered to dress him, he respectfully declined.
Mandela had found his signature. It meant: (a) anyone else who wore batik automatically became associated with him; and (b) when he chose to change from it, it was an act loaded with meaning. See, for example, when he wore a Springbok jersey in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and the following year when he wore a “Bafana Bafana” football shirt for the African Cup of Nations. Not to mention his willingness to bend his own rules when necessary. According to the designer Oscar de la Renta, Mandela was once invited for dinner at the home of Harry Oppenheimer, then-chairman of De Beers – “as long as he wore a tie”. He wore the tie.
. . .
Like most symbols, the Madiba shirt became the subject of several origination myths. On the Judaism website, a writer called Avraham Berkowitz recalls a conversation with Mandela about a visit to a Jewish synagogue in Cape Town in 1994 when a woman in the congregation gave him a black-and-gold fish-print shirt. According to Berkowitz, Mandela said: “After I’d worn that shirt, this same woman [white South African designer Desré Buirski] would continue to send me shirts. We become good friends, and she designed hundreds of shirts for me. These shirts help me carry my message all over the world.”
South African GQ, however, also attributes the shirts to fashion designer Sonwabile Ndamase, and points out that “by wearing fabrics rooted in southeast Asian cultures, Mandela reached out to the Cape Malay community of South Africans”. Burkina Faso-born tailor Pathé Ouédraogo is another reported provider of Mandela’s shirts.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has hailed Mandela for helping to make its batik globally known. It is said that President Suharto gave him his first batik shirt when Mandela visited the country shortly after his release from prison, and he also went on to wear many shirts by Indonesian designer Iwan Tirta. Mandela’s batik shirts were seen in Indonesia as a symbol of the parallels between South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and its own anti-colonial movement.
Whatever the reality (and Mandela probably wore shirts by all of the above during his long batik-wearing career), it is clear this garment was not a bad communication tool. With clothing, as with politics, Mandela made different individuals feel connected to his cause and used his clothing to further his politics.
It is a model that other politicians might do well to consider. Suits are, no question, the safe option. Perhaps it’s time to think more broadly, not just about constituencies but about what constitutes imagineering. That is a resolution worth making in 2014.


South Africa is expecting a tourism boom following Mandela’s passing, coinciding with the release of the new film biopic ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ in January 2014, the Herald Sun reported.

“Not only is there a significant influx of foreign visitors to our destination, but domestic travel will rise too as people travel to attend memorial events, to be present at the funeral in Qunu and embark on the annual festive season holiday period,” South African president Jacob Zuma said.

More than 100 current and former heads of state travelled to South Africa in order to attend the national memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Nasrec yesterday.

Visitors to South Africa can visit Mandela’s home town, the prison where he was jailed for 27 years and eat at the Mandela family restaurant, all in attempt to understand a nation’s battle for liberty.

Tourists can visit Robben Island, now a World Heritage listed site, where Mandela was locked away from 1963 to 1990, plotting the abolition of the racist apartheid regime.

“Mandela opened up our beautiful country to the rest of the world and his name alone has attracted millions of tourists wanting to walk in his footsteps to South Africa every year,” South African Tourism chief executive Thulani Nzima said.

Mandela ... The Book

Mandela- the Book: Just recently our editorial staff received a beautifully bound book on the life and times of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's gift to the world. We will present our review of this timely treasury on this website and in coming editions of Africa Travel Magazine. We will also give you the details and how you can obtain your personal copy, which we are sure yoiu will value for a lifetime. Jerry W. Bird, Editor

Profile of Nelson R. Mandela
From ANC Web Site


Nelson Mandela's greatest pleasure, his most private moment, is watching the sun set with the music of Handel or Tchaikovsky playing. Locked up in his cell during daylight hours, deprived of music, both these simple pleasures were denied him for decades. With his fellow prisoners, concerts were organized when possible, particularly at Christmas time, where they would sing. Nelson Mandela finds music very uplifting, and takes a keen interest not only in European classical music but also in African choral music and the many talents in South African music. But one voice stands out above all - that of Paul Robeson, whom he describes as our hero.

The years in jail reinforced habits that were already entrenched: the disciplined eating regime of an athlete began in the 1940s, as did the early morning exercise. Still today Nelson Mandela is up by 4.30 am, irrespective of how late he has worked the previous evening. By 5 am he has begun his exercise routine that lasts at least an hour. Breakfast is by 6.30, when the days newspapers are read. The day s work has begun.

With a standard working day of at least 12 hours, time management is critical and Nelson Mandela is extremely impatient with unpunctuality, regarding it as insulting to those you are dealing with.

When speaking of the extensive traveling he has undertaken since his release from prison, Nelson Mandela says: I was helped when preparing for my release by the biography of Pandit Nehru, who wrote of what happens when you leave jail. My daughter Zinzi says that she grew up without a father, who, when he returned, became a father of the nation. This has placed a great responsibility of my shoulders. And wherever I travel, I immediately begin to miss the familiar - the mine dumps, the color and smell that is uniquely South African, and, above all, the people. I do not like to be away for any length of time. For me, there is no place like home.

Mandela accepted the Nobel Peace Prize as an accolade to all people who have worked for peace and stood against racism. It was as much an award to his person as it was to the ANC and all South Africa s people. In particular, he regards it as a tribute to the people of Norway who stood against apartheid while many in the world were silent.

We know it was Norway that provided resources for farming; thereby enabling us to grow food; resources for education and vocational training and the provision of accommodation over the years in exile. The reward for all this sacrifice will be the attainment of freedom and democracy in South Africa, in an open society which respects the rights of all individuals. That goal is now in sight, and we have to thank the people and governments of Norway and Sweden for the tremendous role they played.

More of Nelson Mandela Profile to come