Tuesday, July 1, 2008


On the 11th of June 1988, the world reunited at Wembley Stadium to celebrate the 70th birthday of Madiba - Nelson Mandela who was still incarcerated in Robben Island.
My son Marc'Aurelio led a group of students from Saint Andrews University. They had come all the way from Scotland amid sacrifice and passion to bear testimony.  
He was in his first year but since the age of five when he and his siter Cinzia listend to Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela play live in the Great Hall of our Villa of the Saracen in Florence, the awareness of a wondrous man such as Madiba was implanted in their hearts and in heir spirits by their Mater.
"The blackest white woman in Africa," said Malangatana, one of Southern Africa's greatest living painters.
The media called it the rock and roll world birthday concert for Mandela, implying that the 70,00 to 100,000 people at Wembley loved rock and roll first. It was the foremost pitch to draw in the throngs and by the way let's use  Mandela. Wrong. 
The classical music crowd also loved Mandela but their appeal to young people was negligible. Let's face it darlings, rock and roll and folk and blues and lest we forget jazz led the protest songs and compositions.
Allow me to cite two great South African musicians in exile at that time. Singer Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela who played jazz trumpet and composed revolutionary music in more ways than one.
I used Masekela's "You On My Mind" as the theme song of a jazz/ethnic radio show "Ciao Baby" that I conducted in Florence out of a radio network owned by then entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi who is now Italy's Prime Minister.
Everybody in the radical chic crowd and even those in the grunge groups listened to" Ciao Baby" because it was cool and hot at the same time.
I dedicated every show to El Che - long dead and lying in an unknown grave in Bolivia and to Madiba, very much alive, so alive many sensitives and I felt his vibrant swells from the desolate island of Robben.
Pier Luigi Vigna, who was then Attorney General for Tuscany which had the greatest number of revolutionaries and terrorist in prison once told me that all these individuals listened to"Ciao Baby." 
I knew this to be true because I would sometimes receive hundreds of letters a day from political prisoners requesting music fro the Duke, The Monk, the Count, Bird, Cannonball,Satchmo, Trane, Diz, Chet and forever Miles.  
I was invited to visit South Africa. I think the success of "Ciao Baby" might have had something to do with it. BOSS - the acronym for the South African Secret Services had superb intelligence. They knew I was not connected to any terrorist groups. I was a certified member of the Establishment for Effing's sake. They knew I did not have black lovers.
They knew I loved many black musicians but no sexual connections could be invented let alone found.
My Philippine passport was the rub. The majority of its people are what the BOSS and other SA WRS - South African White Rascist Snobs in their public faces when they had to be polite referred to as "non-white."
The word frequently used was "kaffir," which is Arabic for outsider.
"Not a problem," they said. I would be declared an honorary white. I cracked up in front of the diplomat and still laughing, left the Embassy in Rome.
I never set foot in South African soil until the official announcement by government that Mandela would soon be released. Even so, I remained in the airport and then flew straight to Maputo, Mozambique in a private plane sent by a Money Master the world has never heard of to this day.
I related this story to my radio audience one night. My indignation had been such that I had talked about this Honorary white offer to everyone who would listen. Zubin Mehta to name just one of  the many brave and loyal hearts turned down the Honorary white caca offer to conduct throughout the country.
Some disgruntled South Africans protested in front of the radio station, annoyed that I had dared to tell the story and ridiculed them.It was a peaceful protest albeit a loud one.
In almost anarchical Italy even the transvis/transvestites and the transis/transexuals protested for their rights. They had been emboldened by the hookers who voiced and marched quietly and regularly for their right to earn money and pay taxes as prostitutes.
Mr. Berlusconi was delighted with all the demonstrations regarding my ridicule of government policies in every country that was brutal in its pursuit of the rules and the regs.  
The tortures suffered by Charriere-known as Papillon whilst in French Guyana in the 30's pale in comparison to what Madiba suffered. For 25 years he was alone with his ruminations, meditations, and his extraordinary African spirituality.
What thoughts went through his mind?
What sustained his will to live and thrive?
He was an intellectual Marxist, a secular Leader, but only up to a point. It is difficult for an African, any African steeped in spirituality to be godless  Like Fidel and Che the ANC - African National Congress was fighting a revolution. Make no mistake. Mandela was ruthless in his fight for freedom, for the dignity of blacks and for equal opportunities for them. He ordered the deaths of many enemies who had enslaved his people. It was never for personal gain but white Anglo and Afrikaner corpses piled up nevertheless. 
The prosecution sought the death penalty. Instead wiser and more potent heads prevailed. Robben island, some desolate place that even God may have forgotten became his prison. I think that it liberated Madiba. His desire for revenge vanished slowly, day by day, year after year. He freed himself  of the Mastership Game and in so doing, became the one and only man his people, black and white trusted to lead them.
When the authorities  released him at  last from his long imprisonment, over a quarter of a century, Madiba shone with the brilliance of a truly free man. Indeed, he had rid himself of so much baggage and" possessions" during all those seemingly endless years that the seething Mandela who had come to Robben Island in chains was no longer in any way the same serene Mandela who walked out in elegance. Now he was Madiba.  
"Why don't we just kill the kaffir bastard,"  every day someone in government or in BOSS would ask.  "
We can poison him. We can give him hemorrhagic fevers, some new horrible biological malady direct from our test tubes."
"Let's be intelligent. We don't want to turn him into a Martyr and a rallying cry for all kaffirs in the Black Continent and elsewhere in the world."
Instead Madiba became the Father of his country. He is Babba and Father Africa today.
He showed the world three remarkable traits it needs badly. Love, Forgiveness and Joy.
Madiba is now 90 years old. We pray that his physical juju light will continue to shine throughout Africa and the world for decades. We know this to be true.
Even after death, his Light which has touched those of us who wished to be touched will shine on forever. His juju will be even more powerful then. 
Like El Che he has long surpassed his 15 minutes of fame. He is more than an Icon and a Legend.  He is a Sun.  

1 comment:

  1. Buon giorno, Isabella,

    What a lovely tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday. So much of this is from a perspective that few people would have previously known about. I'm sure readers will want to hear more about your "Ciao, Baby" broadcasts from Firenze. Thanks for this entry.




Isabel Van Fechtmann

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