Mandela's long walk ends at last

Published: 16 December, 2013 05:52 IST | Agencies |

Songs, speeches and the boom of artillery rang across Nelson Mandela's village during his funeral as a tribal chief declared, 'A great tree has fallen'

In the end, one of the most enduring images was one of the last. Against the backdrop of the hills of his childhood and draped in the multi-coloured flag of the new South Africa that he helped to create, Nelson Mandela’s coffin was borne to its final resting place.

Goodbye to an icon: Nelson Mandela’s coffin is slowly lowered into the ground in the hills close to where he grew up, at the small, private burial in Qunu as military salute and mourners mark the poignant moment.

And as he was buried a military chaplain said: “Yours was truly a long walk to freedom, and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom, in the bosom of your maker.”

Mourning: Guests including Prince Charles, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Gerry Adams, Richard Branson and the actor Idris Elba joined the Mandela clan at the funeral, to pay homage

After all the pomp and ceremony of last week, it was perhaps the words of his granddaughter Nandi during the final memorial that summed up the mood, “You have run your race. Go well to the land of our ancestors.”

Sombre moment: Winnie Madikizela–Mandela wept as she heard leaders paying humble tributes at the funeral ceremony in Qunu.

South Africa said its final goodbye to Nelson Mandela as ‘a celebration of humanity at its finest’ ushered its most famous son to rest in his ancestral village.

The outpouring of grief culminated in a funeral that drew together many of the godfathers of Africa’s liberation struggles, and blended Xhosa traditions with deeply personal memories from some of those who knew the anti-apartheid icon best.

Dancing for his goodwill: Madiba’s funeral was marked by his Xhosa tribe rituals, which included dancing and also slaughtering an ox to accompany his spirit.

Tens of thousands of wellwishers descended on the windswept village of Qunu for a four-hour service during which Mandela’s coffin rested on a lion skin, a symbol reserved for kings of his native Xhosa people. Yards away from the family, 95 candles had been lit.

Special tribute: A nation in mourning: Three helicopters carrying South African flags fly over the burial site as a much smaller crowd of mourners watched the great statesman laid to rest after 10 days of official mourning. Pics/AFP, Getty Images

Mandela’s body arrived on Saturday in the Eastern Cape village, almost 500 miles south of Johannesburg, where it was greeted by singing and dancing local residents.

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