Grandad Mandela

By Zindzi Mandela with Zazi & Ziwelene & Zondwa Mandela. Illustrations by Sean Qualls (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

It’s always good to remember that a mighty public figure is also someone’s son, someone’s father and in this case, someones great-grandfather.  This beautiful book shares a dialogue between Mandela’s great-grandchildren Zazi and Ziwelene, and their grandmother, Mandela’s daughter Zindzi. In the simple, direct words of children, Zazi and Ziwelene beg their Grandma Zindzi to tell them about the man in the photographs, one more time.  Mandela’s life is probed through their eyes. “Why did Grandad go to jail?” leading to deeper questions like “What is justice?” and “Why did white people start making everybody’s lives be sad lives?”

The answers are frank and unflinching. “It’s because they were taught under colonisation and apartheid to hate,” says Grandma Zindzi.  “They were taught that they were better than black people.”  These are important words for all children to read and hear.  To understand that when people think they are better than others, it only causes suffering and hate.

The emotional toll of being Mandela’s child is faced with questions like these:

‘Did they make your lives sad too?’ asked Ziwelene.

‘Yes,’ Grandma Zindzi replied.  ‘Every time Big Mummy sent us to school, the apartheid police would come and throw us out. Even if we changed our names and pretended we were someone else, they would still find us.’

We love Sean Qualls’ beautifully evocative pencil, collage, and acrylic illustrations.  This is not a Disney version of Mandela’s life but rather a deeply felt and sensitively examined aspect of his story.  This is the human face of one of the world’s great leaders.  An inspiring springboard for discussions on racism, apartheid and South African history.

‘Do you miss Grandad Mandela?’ asked Ziwelene.

‘Of course!’ says Grandma Zindzi. ‘But I know a good way to remember him. Do you know what volunteering is?’  ‘Yes,’ said Zazi. ‘We volunteer to say we care about everyone, to make them feel happy and not make them feel like they don’t belong anywhere.’  ‘That’s right, Zazi!’ says Grandma Zindzi.


EDITOR UPDATE: Sadly Ambassador Zindzi Mandela passed away on 13 July 2020.





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