Several years ago, the Journeys to the Edge team of Roberta Staley and Tallulah Photography travelled to Soweto, South Africa to report upon the efforts of a palliative care organization that supported slum dwellers who were suffering HIV-AIDS alone, immobilized and unable to feed themselves or travel to obtain their antiretroviral drugs.
Soweto, which was the heart of the anti-apartheid movement, is also the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, which killed 1.7 million people in 2011 alone, and has killed about 35 million since 1981, when statistics were first compiled.
In 1981, Nelson Mandela, also known by his Xhosa clan name ‘Madiba,’ was still behind bars in his prison cell on Robben Island. But the tide was turning against the apartheid regime that imprisoned him in 1964. International pressure helped secure Mandela’s release in 1990 and Mandela, who became president in 1994, dismantled apartheid.
One of the places that Journeys to the Edge visited was Regina Mundi Church, which held a rousing and moving memorial service for Mandela on Dec. 8. If Soweto was the heart of the antiapartheid movement, then Regina Mundi Catholic Church was the centre of its heart. Within the embrace of its red brick walls, touched by rays of yellow, white and pale blue streaming through simple stain glassed windows, anti-apartheid activists would communicate their clandestine plans by signing the time and location of covert meetings. The church was the only place that people could assemble without fear of arrest for breaking a state edict forbidding gatherings of three or more people.
We were all touched by Mandela’s remarkable statesmanship. His legacy is one that—we hope—will endure, for it was founded on love, forgiveness and the courage to live a moral and ethical life.
Peace and healing to the people of South Africa. Rest in peace Madiba.