Of late two major moments in history have touched our lives as the nation of South Africa and the global community at large. As we mourn the death of Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, we remember what she stood for. Hers, was life of a true political veteran; hated by many but also loved and adored by many. Though the pain of her passing rests in the hearts of many people, the liberation ideals and what she stood for even in her last days give hope to many South Africans and people around the world.
Seeing the tangible fruits of our liberation ideals come to life through the well-deserved recognition of Gogo Esther Mahlangu is truly worth celebrating. Gogo Esther Mahlangu and her work is not only a national treasure, but a global masterpiece. We have witnessed through the media – congratulatory remarks abound, as the University of Johannesburg bestowed upon Gogo Esther an honorary doctorate. And I join in with the rest of the world to announce and congratulate Dr Esther Mahlangu on her achievement.
There is this amazing proverb that I love, it goes along the lines of “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16. Indeed Dr Esther’s love for her Ndebele traditions, art and her consistent pursuit of excellence has made her take a well-deserved seat amongst the great.
You know for me, what makes Dr Esther’s story remarkable is not her recent honorary doctorate or her collaboration with companies like BMW , Belvedere and icons like John Legend. For me what makes Dr Esther, Mama Winnie and many other heroes’ stories great, is what they do in the ordinary. In what I have read about their lives, I can sum up that they wake up each day, in the ordinary mundane moments where no one is looking and applauding and live their truth.
Dr Esther developed a passion for painting at the age of 10. Though she has travelled the world and has been exposed to various artists and changes over the years, Dr Esther’s staying power has been her refusal to succumb to global pressures by remaining her authentic self. A vivid example of this, is how proudly she wears her Ndebele traditional attire wherever she goes.
Dr Esther and many people who change the world wake up each day and live their authentic best. They do what they love, they honour their craft and, in many ways, begin to reap the rewards. Many people in our generation want a seat amongst the great, but it seems they live more for the external; once in a lifetime external recognition. And that can be a disheartening process because we spend more time in the ordinary and mundane activities of our lives and thus that’s where we should seek to win.
The extraordinary moments in history like an honorary doctorate or a noble prize come once in a lifetime and only received by those who stay loyal and focused on their crafts and truth. My friend Joy Ntetha recently echoed that “Our greatest freedom comes from working towards being courageous with our truth…” and this resonated because living one’s truth is not easy, but it is worth it all.
My enjoy life tip is this – do what you love from a pure heart not trying to receive an honorary doctorate or a Nobel prize, if it happens – thank God, but don’t let that be the driving engine. Keep doing your best not for human recognition or glory, but for love.
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