Nelson Mandela Day: 7 lesser-known facts about the Madiba of South Africa
- The first Nelson Mandela Day was celebrated in 2010
- Mandela had his name changed in elementary school
- Nelson Mandela led South Africa's anti-apartheid movement
On July 18, Mandela's birthday, Nelson Mandela International Day is celebrated to honour the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, statesman and philanthropist. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on July 18, 2010.
Here are some lesser-known facts about former South African President Nelson Mandela:
1) His birth name meant 'troublemaker' and so Mandela was one
Nelson Mandela was born in Mvezo, South Africa in 1918. His birth name was Rolihlahla. In his tribe, Xhosa, the name means pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker. He was named Nelson by his elementary school teacher. Nelson Mandela and many African children were given English names so the colonials could pronounce them easily.
2) Mandela ran away from home
Nelson Mandela and his cousin Justice ran away from home in 1941 to avoid arranged marriages. He settled in Johannesburg.
3) Eyesight damage
Mandela worked in harsh working conditions while he was imprisoned. The former President's eyesight was permanently damaged from the glare of the sun.
4) Cameo in a Spike Lee film
Nelson Mandela played a part in Spike Lee's 1992 biopic 'Malcolm X'. He played a teacher reciting Malcolm X's famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids.
5) Nelson Mandela married a first lady
Politician and humanitarian, Garca Machel was married to Mozambique President Samora Machel before she tied the knot with an 80-year-old Mandela in 1998. Machel has been the first lady of two nations.
6) A woodpecker was named after Nelson Mandela
Scientists named a prehistoric woodpecker after Mandela: Australopicus nelsonmandelai. A physics institute at Leeds University has also named a nuclear particle,' Mandela particle'.
7) Master of disguise
Media called Nelson Mandela 'the Black Pimpernel' due to his police evasion tactics. The Sout African politician eluded authorities during his anti-apartheid movement by disguising himself in various ways.