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RIP Nelson Mandela

06 December, 2013

Written by Fashion Fox in News

RIP Nelson Mandela

Waking to the news that former the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela has passed away took time for the news to penetrate. We have lost not just a great leader but a kind man who proved that the strongest thing you can be in life is to be kind. To listen rather than speak, to welcome rather than attack, to reason rather than argue.

On his release from 27 years in prison, addressing crowds from the balcony of Cape Town's City Hall on Sunday February 11, 1990 I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands."

For much of my childhood hew was imprisoned on Robin Island, and as I reached through my memories of that time I remember a conversation with our school Chaplain, who although I’m not a Christian I had a great bond with being aligned in our politics and belief in overcoming struggle through peaceful memories. I had a scholarship to Mill Hill School which was probably and odd thing to have for someone of my political persuasion. Our houses took it in turn to lead a chapel service, I had in my hand a biography of Nelson Mandela and he said with a twinkle in his eye, "why don’t you lead a service for Mandela, there are lots of rich South African kids in this school, give them something to think about," and that’s exactly what we did and I did hear mutters from those kids that this was the first time they’d heard what Mandela had suffered, they didn’t say it openly but I heard at least one boy say it, job done, a small, tiny act, but I do believe that even small ripples contribute to the big wave.

In the news we only see the grand gestures, the big events, we saw him imprisoned we saw Mandela released, we saw his in-aurguration, but what we did not see were the small steps he took every day and the hard work of ordinary people around the world to bring about his release from small acts of boycotting South African fruit to the local groups working with Amnesty international, it is the repeated left, right, left, right that makes history march forward.

So why honour this great man on a fashion daily? Because in the world of fashion and textiles we have our own battles and issues. Currently for one of the other publications I write for I am researching alternatives to the brutal Chinese Angora industry. I also know that these brutal practices are an issue of human welfare as much as animal welfare, it is poor people who accept this gruesome work and a hard regime that forces animal and human being into this purgatory.

There are still issues with Bangladeshi factories and workers’ safety but as much as there are bad factories there are good men and women fighting for workers rights and setting good examples to follow. It appalls me that David Cameron has agreed never to meet with HH Dalai Lama again in order to curry favour with the Chinese regime when we should be supporting Tibet in their struggle for freedom, if not outright independence for self determination. Tibet also has an excellent textile industry producing silk and Yak. These struggles go on, and although the great man is now dead, I hope his example, though now historic, is taught again and again in schools to inspire future generations to stand up for what they believe in and push and strive for what they believe in, to embrace peace and non-violent protest in a time when our freedoms and right to protest are being eroded.

Why do I think textiles are important? Because they cover our world. Every day we are dressed head to foot in textiles, we sit on them, we sleep under them, from our knickers, to wedding dresses, sofa cushions to tea towels, to bullet proof vests, we are covered in them, some textiles have good stories some have bad same as our lives. I chose this single image of Mr Mandela because he is laughing and full of life, wearing a printed shirt from South African artisans.

Rest in Peace dear Mr. Mandela, I thank you for everything you have taught me.

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RIP Nelson Mandela

This is a tribute to the life and work of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela who died 5th December 2013 peace activist, ANC leader and guiding light 

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