(Today, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Today was also the last day of initiation into high school.)

‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’

We impis carried our defeat around our ankles,
shuffling along corridors with bottle-top bracelets jiggling our arrival.
Made to parade before prefects, our trouser legs tucked into socks –
so simply disowned from the right to progress from junior-school shorts.
Carrying shields hastily fashioned from cardboard and tape,
that offered us no protection from the drenching roar of the toilet flush
or the chortles and sneers that met our every arrival and departure.
We stumbled over doormats and across doorways,
drunk with embarrassment and blinded by shame,
always averting our war-painted faces for fear of another
pointless task being set with the gravity of the truly mundane –
Push this coin along the ground with your nose.
Stand with your lips pressed against that tree.
Count the number of bricks in that wall.
Trim the rugby field with these scissors.
And so we did.

© GB 2007

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