Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

In 1991, I had the privilege of shooting a movie of the stage play ‘Sarafina’. During one of our shoot days we had the unique honor of being visited by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on set. It was bizarre, we were meeting the man we were making a film about. As I shook his hand and looked into his eyes I was overwhelmed with an intense surge of emotion and awe. This moment ranked as one of the greatest highlights of my life.

It is with deep sadness that I heard the official news last night that Madiba is no longer with us. Where to begin? When someone has had such a profound impact on so many?

When I was in high school and college in apartheid era South Africa I would hear his name spoken with deep reverence. We all heard stories of his 4 hour speech during his trial when he said:

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

These are the words of a great man. Indeed he did make a sacrifice. He was sentenced to life imprisonment (of which he served 27 years).

I got a call last night from a dear South African friend reminding me of the day he was released from prison. We reminisced about how we ran up and down the streets of Johannesburg screaming with jubilation like crazy people. We were crazy. Young, passionate, fierce and euphoric. This great man was finally free! Seeing him become President was like a dream come true. It was the South Africa we all yearned for. Today, coupled with these fond memories - I feel a deep pain. A light has gone out in the world.

My sadness, as well as perhaps 50 million other South Africans, knows no bounds. His goodness and unyielding principles cause an aching inside of me. The beauty of who he was, leaves me crying my heart out. His life meant something. He showed us a way. A way to be a truly great human. If I could be 1% of the man he was, I would be proud.

Mark Vicente
December 6th, 2013