Nelson Mandela Day celebrates the unparalleled legacy left behind by the father of our nation. Madiba became an icon, a legend, and someone that will still be talked about in the next millennium. He has achieved global adoration, but we can tell you something for sure: He came from VERY humble beginnings.
There are two villages which claim to be the “real home” of Nelson Mandela. Mvezo (where he was born) and Qunu (where he grew up) are separated by 22km, but they both share this unique connection. We’re going to do a quick round-up of each location, to delve inside the making of Madiba
Nelson Mandela Day: Where did he grow up?
Born in Mvezo
The settlement has a total of 800 residents and is 75km away from the coast. The area is accessible from the N2, at the turn-off for Mqhekezweni. This is the place where Madiba was born, but he only spent two years of his early childhood here: When Nelson arrived in Qunu as a two-year-old, his father had been deposed as a traditional leader in Mvezo.
Despite not remembering much of his formative years, Tata has previously spoke very warmly of the “rolling hills” which have come to characterise Mvezo. It may be a small place, but its natural beauty is almost infinite and attracts a few South Africans making the pilgrimage on Nelson Mandela Day.
Mvezo plays host to Madiba’s Birthplace Museum, and that’s the main source of tourist traffic to the village. The town has unveiled a state-of-the-art computer programme for its school learners, and inhabitants now get to enjoy Mandela’s legacy in the best way possible – a guaranteed standard of education for their kids.
Grew up in Qunu
The village – containing no more than 200 people – was also home to the most iconic figure in South Africa’s long and chequered history. The tiny settlement sits deep by the riverbanks in the rural Eastern Cape and is 32km south-west of the town of Mthatha. It’s accessible through the road between Butterworth and Mthatha.
Mandela was never been shy to eulogise the rolling hills and the placid lifestyle of his hometown. He immediately returned to Qunu after 27 years behind bars, and once his Presidential term finished, he set up his retirement home there. On Nelson Mandela Day, the venue welcomes politicians and tourists alike for celebrations.
A walk around the Nelson Mandela Museum will allow tourists to see points of interest ranging from the primary school Madiba first began education at, to the thornbush he crashed into when he fell off a donkey… Yes, really. You can also go on the “sliding stone” the younger Mandela loved, and dine with the locals in their homes.