Together we will win.
Today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and Mandela day. In a moving speech to the Dáil, some twenty three years ago, in which he heralded WB Yeats as an outstanding poet, he also invoked the powerful image of prison and Robben Island. He said,
Even behind the thick prison walls of South Africa’s maximum security jails we heard your voices demanding our release. So strong did that call become that we knew that, contrary to the wishes of our jailers, we would return and as you can see, we have returned.
He heard our voice. Mandela also said: “There was a writer named Chinua Achebe in whose company the prison walls fell.”
Literature can have no greater compliment. So, beginning on Mandela Day, we hope to create a list of 27 voices that can help fell the prison walls whether figurative or actual, political or societal. 27 to honour, Mandala’s 27 years in prison and we are taking suggestions here and on Facebook and Twitter. #27voices
So taking our heed from the man himself, we will begin with the writer Chinua Achebe.
‘Things fall apart’ is perhaps the definitive African novel. It is postcolonial and according to Achebe, ‘ Most African writers write out of an African experience and commitment to an African destiny. For them that destiny does not include a future European identity for which the present is but an apprenticeship. And let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English for we intend to do unheard of things with it!’ – Achebe, ‘Colonialist Criticism’, p7
He said during a Paris Review interview:
I believe in the complexity of the human story and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, This is it. Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing; the same person telling the story will tell it differently. I think of that masquerade in Igbo festivals that dances in the public arena. The Igbo people say, If you want to see it well, you must not stand in one place. The masquerade is moving through this big arena. Dancing. If you’re rooted to a spot, you miss a lot of the grace. So you keep moving, and this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told—from many different perspectives.
Mandela appreciates perspectives, he said on his Dáil address, “We ask that you stay the course with us, we need your support for the democratic perspectives that we represent . . . Together we will win.”