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Mural of Nelson Mandela in Soweto

A woman walks past a mural of former South African President Nelson Mandela painted by Soweto artist Siyabonga Mbola in Soweto, South Africa.

Nelson Mandela's life in places

4 July 2013

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

As Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the world’s most triumphant opponent of apartheid

and South Africa’s most celebrated President, battles death bravely in a

hospital in Pretoria, a nation prays. This nation – Mandela’s South

Africa – is one he tore free from slavery, from racial prejudice and the

grip of draconian laws in flagrant violation of human rights and


On his long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela tramped

the dust of several places in South Africa, places that may appear

unchanged to the unobservant eye. Yet, freedom has altered these places

in ways unimaginable. Here, black people and white now share

near-equitable rights, a reality fervently and violently dreamed of but

unrealizable during Mandela’s childhood and youth. Mandela, as the world

now knows, has been the catalyst of that change.

Explore these

places. From Mvezo, where he was born, to Qunu, where he attended

primary school, and to Robben Island and Paarl where he was imprisoned

for nearly two decades, we trace Mandela’s journey through the places

that shaped his vision, and whose place on the map he changed, perhaps


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