Qunu, Eastern Cape, South Africa




This tiny, rather insignificant town in the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape has only one claim to fame - as the birthplace of Nelson Mandela. Qunu is where Nelson Mandela has acknowledged he spent the happiest years of his youth, diligently doing his herd-boy duties, playing in the river and sailing down the "Sliding Stone". When Nelson's father was persecuted and deposed as Mvezo chief by the white magistrate their family took refuge at Qunu. It is the place where the young Rolihlahla in colonial tradition was named Nelson on his first day at school.

This small town is surrounded by the lush green hills and is home to hospitable locals eager to share their culture with visitors. Qunu today is a cluster of villages surrounded by open veld and rolling hills, dotted with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats.A cock crow wakes up the community and at sunset the herdsmen bring the cattle to the Qunu river to drink, where the young Nelson enjoyed swimming and enriching his imagination with the games played at the riverbank.He has retired here, in Qunu, and built a home which is visable from the N2.

The young boys of Qunu today run the scattered roads, whistling high notes at the soccer playgrounds to cheer their peers. Alternatively, the smooth sloping granite stones provide a natural playground or roller coaster. The community of Qunu is very hospitable and prepared to share their experiences and the story of their favourite son. They still continue to do subsistence farming using traditional practises.

The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre is located at Qunu and comprises the second component of the Nelson Mandela museum. The museum was officially opened on the 11 February 2000, at a function to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison of in 1990. The birthplace/museum is situated at Qunu, along the N2 highway, south of Umtata. Qunu comes alive during the Festive season as Madiba himself hosts a children's Christmas party, which is a highlight of the year. The nearest airport is at Umtata, about 30km east of Qunu. East London is about 200km to the west.