In a South African corner of New York, mourners pay tribute to 'Madiba'

Fri Dec 6, 2013 12:48am EST
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - At "Madiba," a South African-themed bar in Brooklyn named for Nelson Mandela, mourners responding to news of the anti-apartheid champion's death on Thursday gathered to launch giant white lanterns and to consider how they would pay tribute.

The bar, which takes its name from Mandela's Xhosa clan name and is decorated with huge Mandela posters and Zulu designs, has long been a home away from home for South Africans in New York. Many patrons said it was the natural place to come when they heard of Mandela's death.

"He is like a father to us. He taught us about forgiveness and peace," said Michelle Andrews, 43, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, who has lived in New York for 18 years.

Carl Hlazo, 40, who was born in Zimbabwe but now lives in New York, said he planned to part his hair to the side, as Mandela once did, as a small tribute.

"It's very hard to take a monumental figure like that and put it into words," said Hlazo.

For others, deciding how best to honor the former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who emerged from nearly three decades in apartheid prisons to help guide the nation to democracy, seemed daunting.

Andre Merriweather, a teacher who was born in New York and considers Mandela a personal hero, was struggling with how he would explain Mandela's passing to his students, who he said were too young to know much about him.

"In 500 years, if people are talking about our time, they'll say we lived in the era of Nelson Mandela," Merriweather said.   Continued...

People release paper lanterns after lighting them outside Madiba, a restaurant named in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela, in the Brooklyn borough of New York December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri