Selected extracts from new biography

Reading Time: 18 minutes

From Tutu: The Authorised Portrait by Allister Sparks and Mpho A. Tutu FOREWORD by Bono Bono is the lead singer of the Irish rock group U2. He is well known for his humanitarian work in Africa, and co-founded the aid organisations DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), Edun, the ONE Campaign and Red. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. Everybody is trying to figure out their way in the world, their way through the world. How do you carry yourself? How can you be humble, yet not get walked upon? How do you hold your head up but not be fearful? For most it’s not easy … for me it’s impossible. And in my struggle to sort it out, Archbishop Desmond Tutu – “the Arch” to his friends – has been a role model like no other. His leadership, his bravery and the change he has brought to the world mark him out as extraordinary. Quite unlike the rest of us. But when you meet him, what strikes you is his very humanness, his humour, his humility. All echoes of the Latin “humus” – earth that has reached its natural settling point. Earthiness, combined with elevation: that’s some dance to pull off. To be that serious and that silly. To carry the weight of injustice, yet remain so light on his feet. To have so much faith and so little religiosity. Surely laughter is the evidence of freedom. When the archbishop laughs, you hear and you feel his freedom. For me, he’s not just a graceful man but the embodiment of this most radical and transformative of words – grace – a quality impossible to define and difficult to evoke, but we know it when we see it, and we see it in him. All this makes me quite willing to do whatever he tells me to do. He really leaves me no other choice. The last time I was slow in responding to one of his requests I was told in an email that I would “not be let into heaven”. The Arch plays hardball and he’s got the Lord on his side. So it’s no wonder I consider him my boss. People ask how I got so involved in the fight against extreme poverty and why my singing voice has sometimes turned into town crier. Well, it would be nice to say that I work on behalf of the voiceless, the poor and the vulnerable but, actually, I do this because the Arch asked me to. He was my wake-up call – mine and many others’. Not the shrill, ear-splitting sound of a fire alarm, but more like a church bell ringing out: a clear, beautiful note that hangs in the air and resonates in your bones. Wake up to what, exactly? Wake up to what the world can be. A world truly at peace. And peace, from the Arch’s point of view, is not the absence of war. What he seeks is a shift in the battleground – forsaking armed conflict for the longer and more ennobling struggle against complacency, against selfishness, against revenge and other, darker aspects of human nature. To follow him in this fight is to have your life turned upside down turning the world right side up. To follow him is to join that ongoing march, the journey of equality. INTRODUCTION by HIS HOLINESS THE Fourteenth DALAI LAMA His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet and its former head of state. He has lived in exile in Dharamsala in northern India since 1959 when a potential Tibetan national uprising was crushed by Chinese troops. He has consistently advocated non-violent policies for the liberation of Tibet, and has been a spokesperson on international conflicts, environmental concerns and human rights issues. His Holiness has been the recipient of over eighty-four awards, honorary doctorates and prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was awarded in 1989. I remember first meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu over two decades ago. Since then, the better I have got to know him, the greater has been my respect for him as a sincere spiritual practitioner, one who sets great store by the power of faith. There is a remarkable, frank and mutual respect between us. I have immense admiration for the great work he and Nelson Mandela accomplished with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The genuine reconciliation they achieved not only allowed South Africa to make a new start less burdened by the past than it might have been, but also served as a tremendous model for other communities emerging from extended periods of conflict. It was likewise the archbishop’s important suggestion that spiritual leaders should visit places of conflict together to offer good counsel. As a spiritual leader and a freedom fighter committed to non-violence, his achievements have been wonderful. Archbishop Tutu’s sharp and piercing eyes reflect his realistic assessment and astute judgement whatever the situation, but I’ve also noticed that his nature is gently teasing. His easy-going joviality brings a pleasant atmosphere to any meeting he attends, no matter how serious the matter under discussion. His commitment to reconciliation, not simply as a spiritual ideal but in actual practice, has been exemplary. I can only hope that, when the time comes, I too can show as much commitment and strength. When we first met, Archbishop Tutu was not much interested in the cause of Tibet, but he has since become one of our staunch supporters, for which I am grateful. He is a man of principle who has spoken up on the Tibetan people’s behalf even when it meant criticising his own government. China often likes to suggest that it is only white Americans and Europeans who criticise it for its conduct in Tibet. I cannot emphasise enough the impact of such criticism when it comes from a distinguished black African of his stature. In a similar vein, he and Václav Havel recently wrote a ringing defence of the imprisoned Chinese human rights activist and fellow Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. It gives me great pleasure to know that Archbishop Tutu’s daughter, the Reverend Mpho A. Tutu, a warm and beautiful person like her father, has compiled this affectionate portrait of him. It is a fitting tribute to a great man. Interview with NOMALIZO LEAH TUTU Nomalizo Leah Tutu is married to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is the mother of their four children. She championed the cause for better working conditions for domestic workers in South Africa and, in 1983, she helped found the South African Domestic Workers Association. In 2010, together with her husband, she was awarded the Inyathelo Indima-Tema Philanthropy Award. My first impression of him was that he was the stuck-up headmaster’s son. When I first saw him it was early days. I was in my teens. That was Krugersdorp, where his father was the headmaster of the elementary school I went to. Elementary school in those days was longer than it is now. What would be called middle school now, was then part of elementary school. I was about thirteen or fourteen and he was two years older. The first time I saw him, his father was in our classroom and he had come to collect pocket money. I knew he was the headmaster’s son who had been ill. He was in high school in a different place than where we lived. I was great friends with his younger sister. I was in and out of his home long before I ever had visions of dating him. That didn’t change my impression of him as the headmaster’s stuck-up son. He had been very ill with tuberculosis. He had been recovering and the family was really dancing around him. They sort of nursed him, or guarded him, as one does a sore tooth. But I liked him. He seemed a nice guy to have around. He was very thoughtful. He was very gentlemanly. I think his parents were very fond of me, too. When I was in high school, I thought he looked smashing! I don’t know whether he looked smashing because he was the headmaster’s son or whether it was really a crush. There was always an attraction about headmasters’ sons at that stage. We started dating when I was at teacher training college. It was my last year of training. In the meantime, my friend, his younger sister, had dropped [out] and got married. I continued to visit her from college. I don’t remember seeing her brother there. But then, one day, just out of the blue, there he was. He said something, I don’t remember what, but just some comment. It was the first conversation we had in all those years. I think he asked about how I was faring in college, or something unimportant like that. That was when I started talking with him as equals and eventually we started dating. We dated for about two years. The strange thing about his proposal … I can’t really, in all fairness, say that he proposed, because of how he put it. He said, “You know my parents want me to get married.” I thought, “Well!” The conversation went on thereafter to other topics. And then later, when I’d gone back to college, I wrote to him and said, “Well, I think I will assist you in being obedient to your parents.” His “non-proposal” was very close to my writing the final exams of the teacher-training course that I was taking. I was very aware of the impression I would make on our parents about my schooling. He said that he would like us to start family negotiations about our marriage in December when I got home. But I said, “You know what my mother would say if I failed? She would say, ‘I’m not surprised that you failed. How could you pass exams when you were looking at being married?’” So I said he shouldn’t start anything like that before my results came out. When the results came out, I had passed very well. We agreed that negotiations could start. That was after Christmas. We were married in July. By then both his sisters were married and in their own homes. I went to live with his parents. In those days this was a done thing. You got married and went to live with your in-laws. The Xhosas have a word for it: uyakotisa which means you are a new umakoti [bride]. And ukukotisa [the act of being a newly-wed in the home of her husband] in true African tradition is when you want to impress your in-laws with what a good wife you are going to be to their son. You wake up early, you make them tea … and I did absolutely nothing of the sort. It was winter when we married. It was cold. His father used to knock at our door early and say, “Hoo, don’t get up, it’s freezing outside! What would you have, coffee, tea or cocoa?” Desmond used to have cocoa and I would have tea. His father would bring us cocoa and tea in bed. In our African tradition that was not the done thing! It surprised my mother quite a bit how spoiled I was at my in-laws’ home. His parents loved him. They spoiled him. It was always, “Boy this” and “Boy that”. He was very spoiled by his mother.

His mother thought the world of him and he of her. He didn’t get on that well with his father. His father sometimes drank quite a bit and he hated that. He hated when his father was soused. His father was so friendly when he was soused. He was very loving while under the influence. But Desmond didn’t like it at all. He didn’t want his father to drink. We married in July and it was after Christmas when we actually moved into our own place. It was three rooms: a bedroom, a kitchen and a dining-room. But we had a sofa in the dining-room, which we used as a guest bed. There was sort of a shower with cold water, which we never used as a shower; instead we used it as storage. There was no bathroom really to speak of. We used to warm water on the coal stove and have a bath in this big metal tub that we put in the centre of the room. That was the bathroom. Desmond never cooked like my father-in-law used to do. He was only good in cleaning. He would clean. He would wash up. Actually, I think he is one of the few African men of his age who used to wash nappies. I’m still surprised when I hear young women talking about men that won’t do this and won’t do that. I think he was far ahead of his time as far as helping in the house is concerned. We used to work together. He is a very tidy man, tidier than I am. He hates messes. He would get up and dust. He would get up and sweep. We just shared baby caring. From the beginning he was more of a parent than I have been. I’m very short tempered and my children would never call out for me. It was always “Daddy, Daddy”. At night, when the blankets had fallen off anybody’s back, it would always be “Daddy, Daddy, my blankets have fallen off”. Never “Mummy” – they knew better.

Contribution by BARACK OBAMA
Barack Obama was elected the forty-fourth president of the United States (US) in November 2008 and is its first African American president. He was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 and then to the US Senate in 2004, winning by 70 per cent of the vote. In 2009, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
As a crusader for freedom, a spiritual leader, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a respected statesman, he has become a symbol of kindness and hope far beyond the borders of his native land. Through it all, he has been guided by the belief that, in his words, “My humanity is bound up in yours and we can only be human together.” The glint in the eye and the lilt in the voice are familiar to us all, but the signature quality of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, says Nelson Mandela, is the readiness to take unpopular stands without fear. He played a pivotal role in his country’s struggle against apartheid and is an extraordinary example of pursuing a path to forgiveness and reconciliation in the new South Africa. Tribune of the downtrodden, voice of the oppressed, cantor of our conscience: Desmond Tutu possesses that sense of generosity, that spirit of unity, that essence of humanity that South Africans know simply as ubuntu.
Interview with Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese political activist and the leader of the National League for Democracy. Her party won 392 out of 495 seats in Burma’s parliamentary elections in 1990, but the military seized control. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was placed under house arrest prior to the elections, continued to be subjected to various forms of detention for twenty-one years, and was released in November 2010. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. I have to confess that when I heard on the radio that he was going to retire after his birthday, I absolutely protested. I said, “No, he’s not to be allowed to retire!” I can’t remember when I first heard of him, because I heard of him way, way back. But I can say that he became personal for me only after I was placed under house arrest from 1989 to 1995. Then, through the BBC, I could hear how loud and clear he was speaking for my release. Prior to that, I had an impression of him as a political heavyweight. He was someone important who was doing serious and effective work for the anti-apartheid movement. I listened to him very carefully. It was not so much that the circumstances were similar – I don’t think I thought of that as much as what lessons I could learn from what he had to say. I learned from him that you have to persevere. Just because there are obstacles, it doesn’t mean you can’t get over them. We learn that times change, circumstances change and you have to learn to work with circumstances in the best way possible. Although I have never met him, I feel I know him well because I read his books. After I read his books I discovered that I had found another side of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was not just an anti-apartheid worker. He was not just an advocate for human rights. He was somebody who had thought very deeply about spiritual values and had applied them to what he was doing. In some ways that reminded me of Gandhi, because Gandhi always thought spirituality and action have to go together. I was touched by the way in which the Arch linked his faith and his intellect to the removal of apartheid. I think this is one of the reasons he succeeded so well, because his faith (his spirit) and intellect (his mind) were at one when he was working to achieve what he thought was the right thing. I felt that when he was reading the Bible he always had one part of his mind on the question of ending apartheid, and vice versa: when he was involved in fighting apartheid, one part of his mind was with the Bible. I asked him to write the foreword for my book. I think it was probably my husband’s idea. My husband was very, very fond of the Arch – very fond of him. Both of us really appreciated what he did for us. My husband always mentioned the fact that the Arch and Václav Havel were two of the most caring people, with regard to what we were trying to do. Michael always spoke very affectionately of him. Actually, he always referred to him as “Desmond”. I don’t know why. It was rather familiar, I thought, with my conservative Burmese upbringing. I think they met but I’m not sure. My husband always spoke as though he had. A gift of the Arch’s – my husband sounded very close to him. It was that sense of closeness and his political courage that made me ask him to write the foreword. I also liked that he had tremendous fondness and respect for his wife. He talks about her in his book and I liked the way he talked of her. After he started speaking out for me, I discovered that he was a very warm, a very bubbly person.

Recently I spoke with him for the first time. We giggled a lot. I think when I spoke to him I hadn’t quite got used to cell phones as I have now. There was something not quite right, not quite adequate about such small implements. I think he is sort of a giggle-maker, if you like. What I remember most from our conversation was the overall feeling of warmth and the feeling that he cared. There was a feeling that, although we have never met, we had never spoken to each other, we were not strangers to each other. He expressed his happiness and he talked of a better Burma. He’s already demonstrated his commitment to Burma’s democracy so the words mattered less to me than the feeling that we were close to each other. I think that probably is a feeling that he gives to other people. I think it’s a gift he has. I’ve heard that he calls me his pin-up. That’s very nice of him. I have just sent him a really nice picture. I believe that the prisoners in the concentration camps who were working on the Burma-Thai Railway, the infamous railway of death, had pin-ups. Their pin-ups were recipes and pictures of cream cakes and so on. There are different sorts of pin-ups. The image that came into my mind is of prisoners of war pinning pin-ups to the walls of their barracks. Now it’s the other way round. People have been asking me who my hero is and I have always said that it’s Desmond Tutu. I hope that all of you would be able to come to Burma soon. I would love to come to South Africa, just to see the Arch.

– By