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IN PHOTOS: Carnival mood as South Africa honours Mandela

© Photo: Sarah Leduc / FRANCE 24

Text by Sarah LEDUC

Latest update : 2013-12-10

Many South Africans have not waited for the official beginning of the commemorations to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela. FRANCE 24 reports from a nation celebrating the life of the man they described as the “father of the nation”.

Getting to Nelson Mandela’s old house at Vilakazi Street, in Soweto, involves running a gauntlet of police barriers, crowds of tourists and grinning throngs of children selling T-shirts.

The crowds are so big that temporary parking spaces have been laid on at least 200 metres from the modest red-bricked home where Mandela lived as a young man from 1946 to 1962, before his incarceration.

Mandela House”, now a museum, has welcomed a deluge of visitors since his passing on Thursday.

The commemorations feel like a carnival sponsored by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) with the party’s green, yellow and black flags jauntily flying from every lamppost.

At nearby restaurants, couples wearing baseball caps emblazoned with Mandela’s picture swig bottled beer, tourists pose for pictures under a portrait of the late former president, bikers parade on their customised machines and teenagers tuck into burgers cooked at the “Mandela Family Restaurant”.

There are plenty of smiling locals selling Mandela memorabilia, delighted with the roaring trade.

“I’ve sold 100 T-shirts in just two hours,” says one street vendor, showing off his array of clothes, hats, DVDs and flags.

Music and dancing

A half-hour drive away in the up-market Houghton district where Mandela lived during his final years, the atmosphere is more raucous, with music and dancing replacing the T-shirt vendors.

Groups of people of all colours and nationalities have been gathering here since Thursday to pay their respects to the “Father of the Nation”.

Stacked in front of the gates to the residents are huge piles of flowers that never appear to wilt as they are quickly removed to make way for the endless stream of fresh bouquets.

The flowers come with cards bearing  messages including “We love you Mandela”, “Rest in peace Tata [daddy]”, and simply “Thank you”.

And constantly in the background is the throb of music, with groups drumming, singing and dancing.

Anti-apartheid and liberation songs mix with gospel music with no let-up through the night, adding to the atmosphere of celebration that not even the seasonal thunderstorms can quench.

Date created : 2013-12-09

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