From T-shirts to ostrich eggs, mourners snap up Mandela mementos

Sat Dec 7, 2013 10:36am EST
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By Tosin Sulaiman

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - From books and T-shirts to bracelets and ostrich eggs, Nelson Mandela art and memorabilia have been flying off shelves and stalls as mourners search for a memento of South Africa's anti-apartheid legend.

Souvenirs bearing the likeness of the former president, who died peacefully at his Johannesburg home on Thursday, had never been hard to find in South Africa, where he was already revered in life as a national hero for his struggle to end apartheid.

But the outpouring of emotion - a mixture of grief for his passing and celebration of his remarkable life - generated by his death has sent South Africans and tourists rushing to buy items that perpetuate the memory of his famously smiling face.

At the upscale Sandton City mall in Johannesburg, primary school teacher Salo Mathen had just bought two T-shirts from a store selling clothing and items bearing Mandela's handprint or the number 46664, his prisoner number during the nearly three decades he spent in apartheid jails.

"It's all sentimental with what has happened ... It's just drawn me to this shop," Mathen said. The shop sells brightly colored polo shirts, trousers, dresses, and flip flops.

A store assistant said sales had been up about 50 percent since Friday morning. Many customers were from overseas, including Ghana, Swaziland, France, Britain and the United States, and a condolence book contained about 20 messages.

"Madiba, you transformed a nation of hate into one of love. Thank you Tata," read one. "Madiba" is Mandela's clan name and "Tata" means father in the Xhosa language.

Among the most popular items bought by memento-seekers were the multi-colored 'shwe shwe' shirts that were a favorite of Mandela's, including a mustard and orange one selling for 449.95 rand ($43.56).   Continued...

A man sells pins with the image of Nelson Mandela outside the Mandela house in the Houghton Estates neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa December 7, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif