I am often asked about the source of my inspiration, particularly with my photography. I recently saw the film 'Invictus', the true story of how Nelson Mandela, the then President of South Africa, used the universal language of sport to unite his racially divided country in the wake of apartheid. The film so eloquently portrays how Mandela's wisdom and persistence with reconciliation kept his country from descending into racial warfare after the end of apartheid in the early 1990's.
I grew up in South Africa during the reign of apartheid, and though I left the country long before Nelson Mandela was released from his 27 year political imprisonment in isolation and hard labour, I knew even then that South Africa had two precious commodities - gold and Nelson Mandela. In 1990 on the day he was finally released, I watched excitedly with the world as he emerged from that prison and walked his first steps into freedom. I could not believe that his dignity, his principles, his belief, his spirit and his humanity was still intact and that he could be so forgiving of his captors. When asked what he missed most while in prison, he replied that it was hearing the sounds of laughing children.
When I look out over the magnificent Pacific ocean, so close to my home, and lift my camera to try to capture something of it's awe-inspiring beauty, or peer into the secret world of flowers with my macro lens, I often think of Nelson Mandela and how deprived he must have felt to have spent so much of his life imprisoned within the four walls of that tiny concrete cell. Freedom for him came at an astronomical price.
In his autobiography, 'Long Walk to Freedom', Mandela declared, "I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free. Free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother's hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars ... It was only when I learnt that my boyhood freedom was an illusion ... that I began to hunger for it."
I still have a portrait of the great man in my office. It reminds me that changing the world can start with a single person and it inspires me to try. If you need some inspiration in your life, go and see the film 'Invictus' or borrow a copy of 'Long Walk to Freedom'. It will inspire you to greater things!