|Nelson Mandela "Amadelakufa!" (Death Defiance!)|
Mandela was born in the small village of Qunu, a residence that consisted of little more than a few hundred people who lived in mud-walled huts with straw roofs, called "rondavels". The floor of the rondavels were made from a crushed ant-heap that was made smooth by the constantly smeared cow dung. (Click here for information on South Africa) There was a low doorway, and no chimney. The general food young Nelson Mandela would eat would be corn, sorghum, beans and pumpkins, and he'd wear a blanket around his shoulder that would be pinned at the waist. Mandela lived a very happy childhood. He started to herd cattle at the age of five. He learned how to fight while playing in the fields with other boys, and gained knowledge through stories and observation of this elders.
When Mandela was seven, he started school at the suggestion of some Christian friends of his father. Few people where Mandela lived were educated, so his father had no objections. On the first day, Mandela arrived in a single-room schoolhouse with a western roof, wearing his father's pants that had been cut off at the knees to fit him. It was in school that Mandela was given the British name "Nelson".
When Mandela grew older, he went to the Crow Mines in Johannesburg, to mine gold. He went expecting huge offices, buildings, a city of gold, but found what resembled to him a war-torn battlefield, all fenced in, with dirt and no trees. Miners lived in barracks, and were separated according to tribe. This was done so that the different ethnic groups wouldn't come together around one grievance and revolt against their chiefs. As a result, many fights between different tribes broke out that none of the authorities tried to stop.
In Johannesburg Mandela took up boxing. He was never great at it, but as he wrote in his autobiography,"I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one's body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match. Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling your opponent, probing his strengths and weaknesses, you are not thinking about his color or social status."
Mandela boxed little after he entered politics, but he continued training. He found that long exhausting workouts were a good way to channel tension and stress.