Paris: What impact has Nelson Mandela had on your life?
I was privileged to be researching a book in South Africa during the TRC and the transition period in 1996. I didn’t meet Nelson Mandela (although I did meet Bishop Tutu), but it was clear that the positive, hopeful ambiance that was beginning to characterize black society then (and some in the white community as well) was the direct result of Mandela’s powerful influence and the fact that he, along with F.W. de Klerk, had won the Nobel Peace Prize just three years earlier. I was profoundly moved by what he represented in the lives of black South Africans, by the dignity he had bestowed through his remarkable courage and his conviction that an interracial “Rainbow Nation” was possible.
I was already focusing on minorities and majorities, on reconciliation and justice, in my own work. Visiting Mandela’s South Africa at that critical time, although it was not without problems, helped shape my own thinking.