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Photo of Ndaba Mandela and Nelson Mandela

Interview: Ndaba Mandela, Author of ‘Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather, Nelson Mandela’

Ndaba Mandela is the grandson of the late Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s greatest leaders and humanitarians. As co-founder and co-chairman of the Africa Rising Foundation, he seeks to promote a positive image of Africa around the world and the further cultivation of Africa’s growth in education, employment, and business. Additionally, he has served as spokesperson and ambassador for UNAIDS to work towards the end of HIV/AIDS discrimination.

Ndaba Mandela is currently on tour in the United States to promote his book, Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather, Nelson Mandelawhich was released on June 26, 2018. The book tour events precede the widely anticipated Mandela 100 coming on July 18, which commemorates Nelson Mandela’s legacy and 100th birthday. If you’re unable to catch Ndaba Mandela in person on the book tour, you can tune in on YouTube to watch his interview with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden from Wednesday, June 27. Mr. Mandela joined me on a call earlier this week to discuss his new book and Mandela 100.

Do you remember where you were and how you felt when you heard your grandfather was going be released from prison?

I think I was at home on the Eastern Cape. I just saw people very excited and happy watching the television. Word was spreading around that he was being released, but it didn’t really mean much to me as a child. Again, it was like that’s your grandfather, but I’d never seen or never met [him] or anything like that. It was like whoa, everybody’s so happy for this man. That’s pretty cool. It wasn’t really a big thing for me personally at just eight years old.

How long has this book been in the making?

It’s been about a three year process.

Could you tell me what the title refers to?

Going to the Mountain refers to – in our culture, I’ll say two things. One refers to the actual circumcision process that we undertake, which is a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. Secondly, it’s really a euphemism or comparing the challenges the minorities or young black people face in their world. Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘After climbing a great hill, you realize when you’re on top of that hill, that there are many other hills to climb.’ It’s talking about the challenges that we face in the world. Going to college, starting a career [are] challenges. Of course, for young black people across the world, it’s really a mountainous sort of challenge and journey.

I want to quote from your website, ‘There are many positive things that the global village does not know about Africa.’ Could you please highlight one or two things?

When we look at the fashion world right now, majority of all the inspiration that they are using for designs is coming from Africa. Whether it’s high end or little, they’re all taking inspiration from Africa. When you talk about fashion, when you talk about food, when you talk about the culture, when you talk about just the dancing, there’s all something emanating from the African continent, culture, and people. When you talk about some of the most exotic, most beautiful places in the world – you talk about Mauritius, the Seychelles, Mozambique – I can go on and on.
Photo of the book cover Going to the Mountain
What was most profound conversation you had with your grandfather?

Most profound, hm! Let me think about this one. You know one of the things that he taught me when I was very young – and even though I didn’t really understand it fully, now it really hits home. He said, ‘Ndaba, you are my grandson. Therefore people will look at you as a leader. And as a leader, you must get the best marks in class.’ From a young age of 13 years old, he taught me that I must prepare myself and act and always be in the light of being seen as a leader. I cannot escape this … and therefore I must act as a leader.

Regarding the United States’ immigration situation, specifically at the southern border, what would your grandfather want us to keep in mind?

Madiba would want us to keep in mind we are all humans at the end of the day. We share one common destiny as humanity. The way you treat your neighbors across the southern border – please be mindful that these are human beings at the end of the day. We need to practice some humanity when you’re dealing with people. These are not cattle that are crossing the borders. These are human beings, many of which actually are the driving force of the labor of America. If we remove all the labors from this country, where would America be? Let us not forget that.

What are you looking forward to most about Mandela 100?

Well, of course, for us it’s really about engaging with people and reminding people of the value of Nelson Mandela. I want to make sure people never forget about Nelson Mandela. That is one of the reasons why I wrote this book. I want to celebrate the man and remind the world that there once was a man who walked the Earth, who believed and understood that love was stronger than hate.

Let’s skip ahead to the future. If the world were holding a Mandela 100 in your honor, how would you want your legacy to be regarded?

I would want my legacy to be regarded as a man who dedicated his life to creating unity, first and foremost, in Africa: reigniting the solidarity but moreover, creating unity and making all people in the world understand that we share one common destiny. We’ll get rid of the borders and we’ll get rid of the prejudice that exists on this planet.

Mr. Mandela, I want to wish you all the best with your book tour and Mandela 100. 

Thank you.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros earned a B.A. in Art History on a full scholarship at the University of Virginia. Pat is a frequent reviewer of all things Washington, D.C., but she's also been known to cover events in Canada and London. Her blogging adventures include Jeopardy! and the 2018 Stanley Cup finals as well as interviews with Tony Bennett, Kiefer Sutherland, and Ndaba Mandela (Nelson Mandela's grandson). At 2017 Awecome Con, Pat moderated a Q&A for voice actors Sean Schemmel and Christopher Sabat.

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