Mandela makes final journey home in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 1: File photo of South African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela and his then-wife Winnie at their wedding in 1957. This copy was taken from the family album the original was by Alf Khumalo. (Photo credit should read ALF KHUMALO/AFP/Getty Images)
UNDATED - FILE PHOTO In this undated file photo Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is pictured meeting with Nelson Mandela the former leader of South Africa in Gaza City. Medics announced on October 31, 2004 that Arafat's health is in a serious condition, after the illness that has persisted for two weeks, took a sudden turn for the worse. Test have so far proved inconclusive and more results are expected on Wednesday. (Photo by Palestinian Authorities via Getty Images)
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - 1990: Nelson Mandela seated in between Nomatyala (left), Allan Boesak (left) and the late Steve Tshwete behind Boesak at an ANC rally in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, 1990. (Photo by Gallo Images/Oryx Media Archive/Getty Images)
SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 11: Nelson Mandela's liberation in South Africa on February 11, 1990 - Nelson Mandela at Desmond Tutu's residence in Cape Town. (Photo by Pool BOUVET/DE KEERLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
(FILES) African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela (c), together with his then-wife Winnie (l), Walter Sisulu (r), Veteran ANC secretary-general and Robben Island prisoner and Sisulu's wife Albertina (2nd-r), are seated 13 February 1990 on the platform in the middle of Soweto Soccer City stadium, during a rally attended by over 100,000 people, to celebrate Mandela's release from jail 11 February 1990. (Photo credit should read WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 13, 1990: Nelson and Winnie Mandela relax at their Orlando home after an ANC rally at Soccer City. (Photo by Gallo Images/Business Day/Robert Botha)
Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie play with their grandchild Bambata at their Soweto home 21 February 1990. After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. AFP PHOTO WALTER DHLADHLA (Photo credit should read WALTER DHALDHLA/AFP/Getty Images)
South African anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela (C) is welcomed by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe (2nd L) as he arrives in Zimbabwe, 04 March 1990, in Harare. Nelson Mandela, who was released from jail 11 February 1990, is here for a three-day visit. (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GettyImages)
US Secy. of State Baker (R) walking w. black nationalist ldr. Nelson Mandela (C) and Mandela's wife Winnie (L) after independence of Namibia. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
GERMANY - JUNE 12: Nelson Mandela's visit in Bonn, Germany on June 12, 1990-With Willy Brandt. (Photo by Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
South African anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela (R) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 04 July 1990 on the steps of No 10 Downing Street. Mandela is on a two day visit to the United Kingdom. (FILM) AFP PHOTO/GERRY PENNY (Photo credit should read GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images)
South African anti-apartheid leader and member of the African National Congress (ANC) Nelson Mandela (L) waves to the media and fans 25 June 1990 after finishing his joint statement with former US President George Bush (R) on the White House South Lawn in Washington,DC. AFP PHOTO/Kevin LARKIN (Photo credit should read KEVIN LARKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela hugs, October 1990, a young Sowetan girl as he visits the black township near Johannesburg. (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises fist while addressing on September 05, 1990 in Tokoza a crowd of residents from the Phola park squatter camp during his tour of townships. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa before becoming the country's first black president IN 1994. Mandela was a leading member of the African National Congress (ANC), which opposed South Africa's white minority government and its policy of racial separation, known as apartheid. AFP PHOTO TREVOR SAMSON (Photo credit should read TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
MATANZAS, CUBA - JULY 26:Fidel Castro (R) and Nelson Mandela attend the anniversary of Moncada barracks attack on July 26, 1991 in Matanzas, Cuba. (Photo by Feliberto CARRIE/GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
South African president Nelson Mandela stands behind a podium and addresses a joint session of the United States Congress, Washington, DC, October 6, 1994. (Photo by Ron Sachs/CNP/Getty Images)
South African President Nelson Mandela visits 10 February 1995 his former cell in notorious Robben Island prison off the coast of Cape Town where he spent 19 of his 27 years in jail. (Photo credit should read GUY TILLIM/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 1996: President Nelson Mandela meets school children in St James's Park during president Mandela's state visit to Great Britain in 1996. (Photo by Tom Stoddart/Getty Images)
GERMANY - MAY 22: Nelson Rolihlahla MANDELA, president of the republic of South Africa, president of the ANC ( African National Congress ) and winner of the Nobel Peace Price, during state visit in Germany. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images)
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, 94, at his home in Qunu, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
QUNU, South Africa (AP) - His flag-draped casket resting on a carpet of animal skins, Nelson Mandela was laid to rest Sunday in the green, rolling hills of the eastern hamlet where he began his extraordinary journey - one that led him from prison to the presidency, a global symbol of endurance and reconciliation in the fight against South Africa's racist rule.
Artillery boomed and military aircraft roared through a cloud-studded sky, as the simple and the celebrated gathered to pay their final respects in Mandela's native village of Qunu at a state funeral that blended ancient tribal rituals with a display of the might of the new, integrated South Africa.
"Yours was truly a long walk to freedom and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of your maker," Brig. Gen. Monwabisi Jamangile, chaplain-general of the South African military, said as Mandela's casket was lowered into the ground at the family gravesite. "Rest in peace."
"I realized that the old man is no more, no more with us," said Bayanda Nyengule, head of a local museum about Mandela, his voice cracking as he described the burial attended by several hundred mourners after a larger funeral ceremony during which some 4,500 people, including heads of state, royalty and celebrities, paid their last respects.
The burial ended a 10-day mourning period that began with Mandela's death on Dec. 5 at 95, and included a Johannesburg memorial attended by nearly 100 world leaders and three days during which tens of thousands of South Africans of all races and backgrounds filed past Mandela's casket in the capital, Pretoria.
For South Africans, it was also a time for reflection about the racial integration they achieved when Mandela presided over the end of apartheid, and the economic inequality and other challenges that have yet to be overcome and seem certain to test his legacy's endurance.
The burial site marked a return to Mandela's humble roots, but the funeral trappings were elaborate. South African honor guards from the army, navy and air force, including both black and white officers, marched in formation along a winding dirt road.
In contrast to the military pomp, some speakers evoked the traditions of the Xhosa tribe, to which Mandela's Thembu clan belongs.
"A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers," said Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mandela's family who wore an animal skin. "We thank them for lending us such an icon."
Another speaker, Zolani Mkiva, served for many years as Mandela's praise singer, a traditional role in which he shouted out the leader's attributes to audiences, prefacing Mandela's many stations in life with the words "very important:" person, prince, patriot, politician, prisoner, philosopher, president, pensioner, patient, papa.
"The bones of our ancestors are vibrating. The waves of African oceans are reverberating," Mkiva said.
In keeping with Xhosa traditions, Mandela's casket was brought to Qunu Saturday draped in a lion skin, an honor bestowed on those of a high rank like Mandela, who is the son of a traditional clan chief. His body lay for the night in his family home before burial, a time when tradition dictates that family elders "talk" to the body to explain to his spirit what is happening.
South African television showed Mandela's casket at the family gravesite, but the broadcast was stopped just before the coffin was lowered into the ground at the request of the Mandela family, which often talked of how it had to share its patriarch with the nation and the world.
His body was buried around noon, "when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest," said Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the country's ruling party, the African National Congress.
Mandela spent 27 years as a prisoner of apartheid, then emerged to lead a delicate transition to democracy when many South Africans feared the country would sink into all-out racial conflict. He became president in the first all-race elections in 1994 and served one five-year term.
At the funeral ceremony, Mandela's portrait looked over the assembly from behind a bank of 95 candles representing each year of his life. His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins.
Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black Xhosa head wraps and dresses. Guests included veterans of the military wing of the ANC, as well as U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and other foreign envoys.
Britain's Prince Charles, Monaco's Prince Albert II, Oprah Winfrey, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also were there.
At one spot overlooking Mandela's compound, several hundred people gathered to watch the televised ceremony. A group of Zulu traditional dancers with spears and shields gathered nearby to pay their last respects to Mandela.
"He's a first class guy in the world," dancer Musa Ngunbane said.
Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend's "abundant reserves" of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.
"He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking," Kathrada said, his voice breaking at times. "How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn't do so."
Recalling her grandfather's simple roots, Nandi Mandela said he went barefoot to school as a boy in Qunu, where he herded cattle before eventually became president and a figure of global renown.
"It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life," she said.
In the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name: "Go well, Madiba. Go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race."