Celebrations to mark Nelson Mandela’s centenary have not only been taking place in South Africa.
In Brussels, Belgium, a string of events are being used to mark the momentous occasion. He is small but mighty, the Manneken Pis, is the symbol of the Belgian capital, Brussels and to mark the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, he has dressed as Madiba himself.
“Manneken Pis is a very important symbol in Brussels, “says official dresser of the Manneken Pis Nicolas Edelman. The bells of the Brussels cathedral rang out the South African national anthem and a number of other songs memorable to those who struggled against the apartheid regime.
Brussels and the bells are being joined by cathedrals and churches up and down the country in Belgian cities like Antwerp, Bruges and Gent as well as in many other smaller towns.
Nelson Mandela visited Brussels on a number of occasions throughout his life and was strongly supported by the European Parliament during his time in prison. He became the first ever winner of the EU’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 1988 which he collected in 1990 after his release.
The centenary is being used in the country to reaffirm to Mandela’s principles. “More than being reminded, it is the day where we must recommit ourselves to do everything on a daily basis in our lives, professionally and otherwise, to live through his legacy towards reconciliation, towards peace, towards justice for all, to fight poverty,” says South African ambassador to the EU and Belgium, Baso Sangqu.
For the tourists visiting Brussels, the dressed up statue has been a chance to reflect on Mandela’s influence. “He wasn’t afraid of anything, he said what he was thinking and it had a very important impact for the world,” says an Austrian tourist Constantine.
The sun is illuminating the Mandela celebrations but Belgium has not forgotten to mark Albertina Sisulu’s centenary also – an additional statue of the Manneken Pis is also appearing dressed as the anti-apartheid activist.