Willie Siljeur - Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Welcome to the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project. Our aim is to locate, document, digitise, and provide access to all archival materials related to Nelson Mandela. This is a work in progress. Here is a selection of materials arranged in exhibits for your enjoyment.
It was the morning of one of Mr Mandela’s children’s Christmas parties in Qunu. We were on our way to the party venue behind the President’s house. Each year, he made it his business to personally check up that all arrangements were in place before the children began arriving. He would go into some detail to satisfy himself that the children were adequately catered for.
These were huge events in the Transkei. Children would walk for miles and miles to attend. The party began after 8am, but we’d see the children approaching from all directions from as early as 3am when we prepared to report for our morning shift.
We did not only cater for the children who physically attended the event. Of course, they came hungry and were fed. But many of the children would also ask to take food home for their parents or grandparents – or for their brothers and sisters who may not have been able to walk.
Although companies would donate presents for the children, bread, cool drinks and sweets, and local farmers donated cattle for slaughter, it was never possible to predict how many children would arrive. Inevitably, there’d be 500 or 1 000 extra mouths to feed than anticipated.
For Mr Mandela, a day without children in Qunu was not a good day. Sometimes, when it was quiet around the house, we’d be sent to go and fetch some children. He loved to watch them eat and play.
Quote: "The next moment I saw that he was walking straight over to me, bodyguards and all."
Collection: Moments with a Legend