Mandela’s Game of Chess


It’s rather unfortunate that often times these comments of racial preferences are often so close to home, literally. Cultural sentiments and fear are so deeply entangled in the generations that it becomes difficult to hit the ‘reset’ button.

For Mandela, he did not change the system overnight nor over the course of a year –but 27 years. It’s difficult to even fathom how long that really is. To give you a picture, during that time frame, the Internet was conceptualized and finally materialized in 1969. Coinciding with that, the first satellite took off and before long, man stepped onto the moon for the very first time.

The Game of Chess
It was a game of chess that lasted 27 years…

“They played for many hours in one day and they had to ask the warders to lock the chessboard up in the cell next door. They continued the next day and each move was so slow this was a war of attrition. After a few hours the young chap said ‘Look, you win. Just take your victory.’ He wins.”

-Ahmed Kathrada, fellow prisoner[1]

Like chess, every little move adds to the overall strategy. In the wake of Brexit, one of the most touching symbols I’ve ever come across – the safety pin –it’s a simple message of you’re safe with me.

(image: @Markfergusonuk)

“Wearing a #SafetyPin this morning. Solidarity with those who have made this wonderful country their home.”[2]

There’s no banner or loudspeakers –the pin is a silent reminder of peace.

“A bullet need happen only once.
But for peace to work, we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”



The Routine
It is not a sprint, but rather a repeated exercise – a routine.

“Prison life is about routine: each day like the one before; each week like the one before it, so that the months and years blend into each other.”

– Nelson Mandela

What is embedded in any routine is the sense of persistence. He stood firm and was unmoved by lures of his personal freedom, nor by the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

When we took the first step of 27 steps, we didn’t know how we were going to do it. And this mentality was further echoed in the questions that others have asked of us: how are you going to do it with just the two of you? Who’s even going to join? How are you going to pay for all of that? Maybe down scale it? Where are you going to build it? Who’s going to help you move? What are you going to do with the piece after? It was question after question after question.

And so we picked up the phone and called. We told them of 27 steps. We told them of the foreseen journey. We asked for help… all with the persistence of Mandela.

Since those 27 years, it’s now been just shy of 27 years since the world’s peace leader was finally released from prison in 1990.

27 years…

(image: Anesta Iwan + Nish Kothari)

Happy Birthday Mandela! May you rest in peace.





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