South Africans are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's walk to freedom today. A number of news outlets have asked readers to remember where they were at that moment. I can recall it vividly. I was a news reporter with The Scotsman, but enjoying a day off with Grace, my five month old baby. We sat on a beanbag in front of the telly at our flat in Partick. I'm afraid I actually talked her through the event...
It's hard to describe to young people born after Mandela's release what an iconic figure he was and how momentous his freedom felt to those of us who'd
campaigned for his release. The world appeared frozen during the Cold War decades from the 1950s to the 1980s. Anyone who was politically active on the left at that time was used to being dismissed as an idealist. We campaigned for change more in hope than expectation. It will seem incredible to the Obama generation, but lots of people in those days defended the white suprematist apartheid regime in South Africa. Some things just WERE, and always would be. The Berlin Wall was solid. Nelson Mandela was in prison. A nuclear holocaust was imminent. By the time he left prison, holding his then wife Winnie's hand, the wall was down and glasnost had begun to transform the Soviet Union. Mandela's release was an incredible confidence boaster for a whole generation of young people who refused to accept the old world order. Impossible things could happen. Perhaps that is why, in Scotland, the 1990s was the decade when our parliament was reconvened after 300 years. Compared to all the other mould-breaking historical events, it no longer seemed like a pipe dream
By 1993 Mandela was in Glasgow, to receive the freedom of the city which had honoured him during his long incarceration. I watched him address an invited audience at The Royal Concert Hall. Thousands of Glaswegians waited in the rain to hear him speak at George Square. The photographer Jeremy Sutton Hibbert has posted up some of his amazing images from that day.
And what of the baby in on my lap? She was dragged along to the Concert Hall as well, by which time she was four and had heard Mandela's story many times. Did it sink in? She is now an engineering student and spent last month in Ghana - that's her in the photo - working on a project run by MIT's D-Lab
The Lab aims to "Improve the quality of life of low-income households through the creation and implementation of low cost technologies."
D-Lab also uses technology to help students gain an optimistic and practical understanding of their roles in alleviating poverty.
Grace might not remember sitting on that beanbag the day Mr Mandela was released. But she's certainly living up to his ideals. (And, yes, her mother is just as doting as she was 20 years ago!)