Looking back on the inspiring month of July it’s incredible to see how much good is being done in the world, and especially South Africa; something we can often lose sight of in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I write “inspiring” because, for many South Africans, in July we remember our late president Nelson Mandela more than in any other month. Also, in celebrating his birthday many initiatives doing good work, and #LivingTheLegacy, receive quite a bit of attention.

For me, a highlight of July this year is Madiba’s centenary and all the celebrations the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) puts together in honour of this – some of these celebrations are still to come…like the Global Citizen Concert. A highlight in the NMF calendar, and mine, is the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture and this year’s lecture was nothing short of amazing. It is the first time the annual lecture was held in a stadium; this, said NMF CEO Ntate Sello Hatang at the lecture, was a dream of Ahmed Kathrada. Many people attended to hear former US president Barack Obama deliver the keynote and, as usual, President Obama was inspiring, insightful, and interesting.

I attended the lecture along with Carel and a few of our fantastic partners and friends. Afterwards, we all shared how incredible the lecture was. Though the queues to get in were long – I stood on Corlett drive for over an hour just to get from the first check point to security ­– the lecture was well worth it.

It was wonderful to be at the Wanderers Stadium with thousands of other people (both South Africans and non-South Africans) celebrating our first democratic president with the foundation he started.

What I also loved was the atmosphere; I felt so grateful to be sitting in a stadium with thousands of other people to celebrate someone who – along with many, many others – made a positive contribution to the South Africa we call home. The crowd was responsive, attentive, and fun. What an honour to hear Mrs Graça Machel, Professor Njabulo NdebeleDr Patrice Motsepe, President Cyril Ramaphosa, President Barack Obama, and Mr Sello Hatang all speak in one place about topical issues and how we can continue to make a better South Africa and a better world.

The programme director was Ms Busi Mkhumbuzi a young entrepreneur, feminist, and speaker who is making a difference through her organisation Tshimong. I really enjoyed hearing her share reflections and manage proceedings to run seamlessly.

There were also star performances by Thandiswa Mazwai, Kirk Whalum, and the Soweto Gospel Choir. This has to be one of the best 100th birthday parties ever (and this is not the first 100th birthday party I have attended).

We loved being able to share these moments with our partners and friends Ann Roberts (TMRW gallery owner), Barker Insurance Brokers, BASA, Erhardt Thiel (iMadiba Project artist), HL Hall and Sons, Lightstone, Purple Group, RMB, Satrix, and St Stithians College.

A number of things stood out for me in what was said at the lecture; one of these is how President Obama said “we have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and of hope”. He continued:

“…Things may go backwards for a while, but ultimately, right makes might, not the other way around, ultimately, the better story can win out and as strong as Madiba’s spirit may have been, he would not have sustained that hope had he been alone in the struggle, part of what buoyed him up was that he knew that each year, the ranks of freedom fighters were replenishing…”

“…And that’s what we need right now, we don’t just need one leader, we don’t just need one inspiration, what we badly need right now is that collective spirit. And, I know that those young people, those hope carriers are gathering around the world…”

This message is something I have carried with me since; we must be both persistent and hopeful. I shared this message the very next day at the opening of the iMadiba micro museum at the V&A Waterfront. A small group of us were in attendance – including representatives from Satrix, CN&CO, the V&A Waterfront, and the Robben Island Museum – and we all sat in the iMadiba discussing Madiba, how we felt sitting in a recreation of his cell, and how we can help make the world a better place. Mr Dede Nstoelongwe, a former political prisoner on Robben Island, shared his experiences of the prison. He also highlighted the significance of us all sitting together, at the same level and in a circle, as we would in a lekgotla.

Sitting in the iMadiba at the Gateway to Robben Island at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 18 July 2018

The iMadiba Project is a global, interactive, participative art project creating conversations for change through art installations, or micro museums, based on the exact dimensions of Madiba’s Robben Island prison cell. The installations are artistic recreations of the cell so the walls are broken down but the size is accurate and the width of the concrete walls, though shorter, is exactly the same. It is built with the support of the NMF and in support of its work; it speaks directly to its mandate to encourage and facilitate dialogue. Visit the website, and follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more.

We opened a few iMadiba sites this month including at the JSE where our partner Satrix built an iMadiba in support of and to raise awareness about financial inclusion – something at the heart of everything Satrix does.

We invite you to visit one of the 15 iMadiba sites to reflect on the messages shared in the annual lecture, reflect on what you’ve heard and experienced this month, reflect on Madiba’s dream for South Africa, and dialogue with people about how we can take this country forward.

Sitting in conversation in the iMadiba at the JSE on 23 July 2018

At the iMadiba Project launch with Satrix on 23 July 2018 and hosted at the JSE, Ntate Hatang reminded us of what President Obama said at the annual lecture about the importance of engaging in dialogue with people we disagree with. Ntate Hatang told us that Madiba once told his predecessor that if the people in the room are all people who agree then it is “not a dialogue, it’s a chat.”

“Madiba would want us to build a South Africa that is more inclusive and more caring,” said Ntate Hatang at the launch. I invite us all to continue to strive for a better South Africa, to have dialogue (in and out of iMadiba micro museums), and to help build a better South Africa for the generations to come.

Read President Barack Obama’s full speech here.