Remembering Nelson Mandela’s historic visit to Bonn in June 1990

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Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela and Willy Brandt/Photo: ©Thomas Imo /FES

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day initiative aims to inspire change and renew the Mandela Legacy in Germany

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“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

Nelson Mandela (18.7.1918 – 5.12.2013)

(Bonn, June 12, 2018) — Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 this year on July 18 (Mandela Day).

To honour Madiba, as he was affectionately known, a new collaborative project in Germany aims to bring people together, striving to make the world more sustainable and a better place for everyone and spreading the Ubuntu spirit and love — one stitch at a time.

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day is a worldwide non-profit initiative to knit or crochet colorful blankets and scarves for the less fortunate in our community. Participants are invited to either make blankets or scarves or contribute single (20 x 20 cm) squares. The 67 Blankets project started in South Africa shortly after Nelson Mandela’s death in December 2013.

Zelda la Grange, long time Personal Assistant to the former South African President and global peace icon, presented her friend Carolyn Steyn with the challenge of making 67 blankets by Nelson Mandela Day in 2014. (July 18th). Obviously this would be impossible for her to do alone, so she reached out to her friends to help her make blankets, which would be given to the needy. As a result, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day was formed.

“In the Mandela Centennial year, we like to introduce and grow this collaborative project here in Bonn, Germany’s UN city and former capital —  in remembrance of Mandela’s life and legacy and his visit 28 years ago, just four months after his release from 27 years of incarceration,”  says Selma Fricke, 67 Blankets ambassador in Germany.

Next Monday, in commemoration of Mandela’s visit to Bonn on June 10 – 12, 1990, the initiative is organizing  a #WalkTogether reception  with interactive activities and a discussion with Ingeborg Wick.

(6 – 10 PM,  Rudolf-Steiner-Haus.Thomas-Mann-Str. 36, 53111 Bonn).  The former leader of Germany’s Anti-Apartheid Movement (ABB) will talk her encounters with Nelson Mandela and the worldwide movement to free Mandela and struggle to end the racial apartheid system in South Africa.

“As a freedom fighter, prisoner and politician – Nelson Mandela remained, until his death, faithful to  ideals of antiracism, justice and peace,” says Wick.

The anti-apartheid fighter was invited to Bonn by Nobel peace laureate and former German chancellor Willy Brandt (SPD).  As the president of the Socialist International, Brandt hosted a reception for him in June 11 at the Hotel Maritim, where Mandela was enthusiastically welcomed by thousands of people.

In his welcoming address, Brandt stated that as prisoner Mandela was a symbol of fearlessness, of faithfulness to one’s convictions and of hope for a better future. “The Nelson Mandela who has been set free is even more: He is a symbol of a willingness at the same time for reconciliation and peace.”

The  67 Blankets project is a joint initiative by Bonns Fünfte Secondary School, the Bonnections initiative, local artists and members of the African diaspora community. Bonns Fünfte is launching this year a school exchange program with the Ndyebo Senior Secondary, a township school in Port Elizabeth. A school delegation visited the new partner school in to South Africa. A group of students and teachers from Port Elizabeth will return the visit next fall.

“We invite people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in this collective 67 Blankets project and to get creative. They can draw their inspiration from Mandela’s life and work, the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) or the colors of the rainbow, because Mandela, after the end of apartheid reinvented  South Africa as a rainbow nation,”  says Fricke, who works as an eurythmy and arts instructor.

On April 24, the 67 Blankets for Mandela Day project in South Africa revealed a 7,000 square meter portrait of Nelson Mandela, consisting of nearly 4,000 blankets that formed the pixels for a “Massive Mandela Masterpiece” big enough to be seen from space. “April is the start of winter in South Africa, and it has been 24 years since the end of apartheid,” says Carolyn Steyn, the founder of the 67 Blankets non-profit organisation.

The goal of the 67 Blankets edition in Germany is less ambitious.

“We aim is to make at least 67 blankets and scarves before winter and distribute them to local charities on December 5th, the fifth anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing,” explains Fricke. “Leading up to Mandela  Day we now want join hands with people in South Africa, knit and crochet together as ‘Knitwits’ for Madiba.”

The first blankets and scarves will be presented on  July 1 at the KLASSIK!PICKNICK concert of the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn along with a colorful arts tepee  and at various events during a local #WalkTogether Action Week (July 18-25) to highlight community and youth-led initiatives and solutions to stop global warming and advance gender equity and social justice.

The Simple Minds, who wrote the Mandela Day song for the 1988 Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert in London as an expression of solidarity for the then-imprisoned Mandela, are going to perform in Bonn on July 25.

Conceived by German artist  Ute Lennartz-Lembeck, the tepee is a collective arts project aimed at building bridges through arts and global collaboration. It was already set up in the Rheinaue last fall during the COP23 climate conference as a place of encounter to create a climate of togetherness.

There are actually about 20 of these tepees, hand-knitted by thousands of people around the world. One is located in Alego, the home village of Barack Obama’s father. The tent was brought to Kenya by his half-sister Auma Obama, who has studied in Germany and is founder of the Sauti Kuu Foundation. Sauti Kuu means “strong voices” in Swahili.

Former US president Barack Obama will deliver the annual Nelson Mandela lecture in Johannesburg on July 17 to mark the centennial of Mandela’s birth. Themed, “Renewing the Mandela Legacy & Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World”, his speech will “focus on creating conditions for bridging divides, working across ideological lines and resisting oppression and inequality.”  Obama also spoke at Mandela’s memorial service in December 2013.

“We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own. Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land. It stirred something in me,” Obama said in his tribute at the memorial.  “It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us.”

For further info about the 67 Blankets project, visit 67blankets.co.za

67 Blankets media contact in Germany: Sandra Prüfer, sprufer@yahoo.com, + 49 (0) 1573 141 3648

About #MandelaDay:

Every year on 18 July — the day Nelson Mandela was born — the UN asks individuals around the world to mark Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July) by making a difference  in their communities. Everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better, and Mandela Day is an occasion for everyone to take action and inspire change. For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa. www.mandeladay.org