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Thursday, Dec 05 2013 03:22 PM

Mandela inspired music, movies, poems

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    By AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Keith Bernstein

    This photo released by The Weinstein Company shows Idris Elba, left, as Nelson Mandela, and Riaad Moosa, as Ahmed Kathrada, in the film, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

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    By Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP

    In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 photo, actor Idris Elba poses for a portrait at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, Calif. Elba knew his latest movie wouldn't be believable, unless his fellow actors could deliver a performance as raw as his own. When portraying South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the British actor embraced the harsh realities of Mandela's life, detailing his time in prison, and the racist treatment he braved, with brutal honesty.

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    By AP Photo/Warner Bros., Keith Bernstein

    In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros., Morgan Freeman portrays Nelson Mandela in a scene from, "Invictus." Heroic in his deeds, graceful in his manner, sainted in his image, Nelson Mandela long served as both cause and muse in the entertainment community. From the 1960s, when he was a political prisoner and South Africa was under the laws of apartheid, right up to recent times, when the racist laws of the land had fallen and he was among the world's most admired people, Mandela inspired concerts, songs, poems, fiction and movies.

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    By AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Keith Bernstein

    This photo released by The Weinstein Company shows, standing from left, Idris Elba, as Nelson Mandela, Tony Kgorge as Walter Sisulu, Riaad Moosa, as Ahmed Kathrada, and Thapelo Mokena as Elias Motsoaledi, in a scene from the film, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

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    By AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Keith Bernstein

    This image released by The Weinstein Company shows, Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, center in the film, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

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    By AP Photo, The New Yorker, Madiba

    In this photo provided the New Yorker, a painting by Madiba, showing Nelson Mandela that will appear on the cover of the December 16, 2013 New Yorker is shown. Nelson Mandela died on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 at age 95.

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    By AP Photo/Reed Saxon

    People examine a painting by Brazilian muralist Eduardo Kobra that features the face of Nelson Mandela on a wall on Highland Avenue in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. Mandela, the former prisoner of Apartheid who rose to the presidency of South Africa, died Thursday. He was 95.

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BY HILLEL ITALIE AP National Writer

NEW YORK -- Heroic in his deeds, graceful in his manner, sainted in his image, Nelson Mandela long served as both cause and muse in the entertainment community.

From the 1960s, when he was a political prisoner and South Africa was under the laws of apartheid, right up to recent times, when the racist laws of the land had fallen and he was among the world's most admired people, Mandela inspired concerts, songs, poems, fiction and movies.

Artists were equally drawn to the man and to what he stood for. During the more than quarter-century that Mandela was jailed, his freedom became synonymous with the freedom of his country. Songwriters and poets invoked his name in calling for apartheid's end and an artistic boycott of South Africa.

"Nelson Mandela is, for me, the single statesman in the world," Nobel laureate Toni Morrison once observed. "The single statesman, in that literal sense, who is not solving all his problems with guns. It's truly unbelievable."

Elizabeth Alexander, who read the inaugural poem at the swearing-in of President Obama in 2009, had years earlier written "A Poem for Nelson Mandela," which featured the lines: "Nelson Mandela is with me because I believe/in symbols; symbols bear power; symbols demand/power; and that is how a nation/follows a man who leads from prison/and cannot speak to them."

It took some daring to support Mandela during his prison years, when Mandela and the political movement he led, the African National Congress, were on international terrorist lists and opinions about him often divided between liberals and conservatives.

As late as 1988, just two years before his release, an all-star concert held to celebrate his 70th birthday was censored on British television to remove political content.

But just as South Africa managed a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, Mandela evolved from opposition leader to head of state to sage with remarkably little damage; he only seemed to gain admirers.

Over the last decade of his life, Mandela presided over a series of "46664" concerts in South Africa, named for Mandela's prison number (466) and the year he was jailed, 1964.

 

Here are highlights of works inspired by Mandela:

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MOVIES: Some of Hollywood's greatest actors played him on film. Academy-Award winner Sidney Poitier, gifted at conveying fiery resilience and good-natured restraint, was an obvious choice to portray him for a TV movie in 1997. Morgan Freeman, another Oscar-winning actor of such august bearing that his roles have ranged from judges to God, played Mandela in 2009's "Invictus," directed by Clint Eastwood, about a South African rugby team. Danny Glover also starred in a TV movie about his life, while Mandela himself made a cameo at the end of Spike Lee's "Malcolm X," released in 1992. "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," starring Idris Elba and based on Mandela's autobiography, was just released this month.

CONCERTS: One of the landmarks of the movement to free Mandela was a 1988 televised concert from London's Wembley Stadium that celebrated his 70th birthday and featured such superstars as Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Sting. At the time, Mandela's African National Congress was still regarded as a terrorist organization by many countries and had been condemned by Britain's then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The BBC angered Mandela supporters by censoring political statements and angered the South African government by airing the concert at all. A 1990 concert celebrating his release featured Tracy Chapman, Neil Young and Mandela himself, who received a long standing ovation. Shows in his honor continued over the decades, with Will Smith, U2's Bono and Annie Lennox among those appearing.

SONGS: Songs protesting apartheid and praising Mandela were written throughout the 1980s and up through his release from prison in 1990, from Eddy Grant's "Gimme Hope Jo'Anna" to Steve Van Zandt's all-star "Sun City," featuring Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis and many other performers, which called for artists to refuse to play in South Africa. Songs directly about Mandela included a Bono-Joe Strummer collaboration, "46664"; "Free Nelson Mandela," by Special A.K.A., an off-shoot of the Specials, and Simple Minds' "Mandela Day."

LITERATURE: Nadine Gordimer's 1987 novel "A Sport of Nature" prophesized the end of apartheid and included a liberation leader based on Mandela. Poems about Mandela date back at least to the 1970s with "And I Watch it in Mandela," by South Africa's John Matshikiza. Jekwu Ikeme's "When Mandela Goes," published in 2004, bowed to mortality and looked to a future without the hallowed man, whose tribal name was Madiba: "When you go Madiba your nobility shall be our lasting inheritance this land you so love shall continue to love we shall trail the long and majestic walk your gallant walk shall be our cross and shepherd."

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