“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela
The man who spoke these words is woven into the Londolozi fabric. Not just by a few strands of his vision and his ethos, but by many that make up a strong, significant material that binds us together as a community. Had he still been alive, Nelson Mandela would have turned 97 years old on Saturday the 18th of July- a Day that we now celebrate across the country, as well as the globe. It is a day that is all the more special for us because of Mandela’s significance to Londolozi.
Nelson Mandela visited Londolozi in 1992 after his release from prison. During his visit, he saw the vision that was being lived by the employees and management in collaboration with nature.
While this was, and continues to be, a lasting validation from the great Madiba of our continued efforts to build and maintain a community that lives as one with each other- as well as nature- it is just that. A validation. A validation that what we strive to do every day is in line with what our country should be. It was only fitting, therefore, that we celebrated, in true Londolozi style, the birthday of Mandela this past Saturday.
On most Sundays, we get together as a community. We spend an hour together working towards a common goal- whether it be picking up litter that the monkeys have left around, or cleaning up communal garden areas for all to enjoy. We sometimes simply sit and talk about the way our community is running, and dissect the good, or the challenging aspects, in order to grow better. We gather, as a community. This week, in honour of Madiba, we moved our Sunday gathering. We thought it was only right.
The day dawned bright and sparkling, as winter mornings in the bush so often are. It was a special day- not just because of the weather, but because we had a birthday to celebrate. Our plan was to continue our weekly hour of service (and to add on another 7 minutes for good measure), and to invite our guests at camp (it just so happened that we had exactly 67 guests in residence…) to join us in the celebration.
We gathered the troops at Varty Camp and wandered up to our local Shangaan village. Lina Lamula, one of our significant elders, lead the celebration by explaining Madiba’s significance to Londolozi at the beginning of what we call ‘Freedom Way‘- the main pathway through the village.
Our journey then took us into our traditional Shangaan village, where our staff community gathered to welcome guests, surrounded by the luxurious voices of the Londolozi Ladies’ Choir. Singing, dancing and poetry was in abundance around us- energising the crisp air. It was clear that we were all there to celebrate. Voices young and old were heard. Two graceful young girls delivered poetry- speaking words of wisdom beyond their years. Nkosi Sikelele, our National Anthem, encircled us.
Once the jovial singing and dancing had come to an end, we invited everyone to pledge their commitment to continuing Madiba’s legacy. We wanted to continue a tradition that was started last year by our Good Work Foundation team, where we placed our hand prints of commitment onto a canvas that would be hung up proudly in our GWF learning centre, as a daily reminder to continue to live our pledges.
As if to close the proverbial loop, we wandered back down through freedom way, hands freshly washed of the paint we used to secure our promises, and planted 67 aloes along the edges. We felt that there was no better way to remind ourselves to live each day by the guidelines of Nelson Mandela than to plant something living and colourful, and something that will bring much joy, along the pathway that we use to honour him.
As our 67 minutes of service came to an end, we were surrounded by laughter, smiles, and visible inspiration. Inspiration to be better. Inspiration to do better. We send gratitude, from the bottom of our hearts, to all those who took part (both guests and staff alike). It is this display of service and appreciation for one another that will always keep the fabric of Londolozi so tightly woven, connecting us all as one.
What did you do to celebrate Madiba’s birthday? Did you do anything interesting for your 67 minutes of service? We would love to know!
Written and photographed by Amanda Ritchie- Photography Studio Manager