Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Nelson Mandela's remains reach his childhood village in Qunu

By Faith Karimi, Robyn Curnow and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT)
Three helicopters fly over the grave site of former South African President Nelson Mandela as his family lays his body to rest in his hometown of Qunu, South Africa, on Sunday December 15. Mandela's body traveled from Pretoria by air to Mthatha in Eastern Cape province, and then by road to Qunu, where was buried Sunday. Mandela died December 5 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95. Three helicopters fly over the grave site of former South African President Nelson Mandela as his family lays his body to rest in his hometown of Qunu, South Africa, on Sunday December 15. Mandela's body traveled from Pretoria by air to Mthatha in Eastern Cape province, and then by road to Qunu, where was buried Sunday. Mandela died December 5 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95.
HIDE CAPTION
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
The funeral of Nelson Mandela
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nelson Mandela's casket arrives in Qunu, where he spent much of his childhood
  • "Even when my father was in jail, he had the most fondest memories of Qunu," daughter says
  • In Qunu, the military hands over his remains to his family
  • Mandela will be buried Sunday after a funeral service

Qunu, South Africa (CNN) -- The coffin carrying Nelson Mandela's body arrived Saturday in his ancestral village of Qunu, where he'll be buried Sunday amid the lush green hills of his boyhood.

After a plane carrying his casket touched down in Mthatha, the closest airport to Qunu, it was taken in a procession past mourners who lined the roads to his rural home.

The mood among the crowd was a celebration of his life, as well as sadness for his passing.

The nation's first black president had often said he felt most at peace here at his rural home in the southeastern corner of the nation.

The hearse carrying former South African President Nelson Mandela leaves the Union Buildings after the final day of his lying in state in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday, December 13. The hearse carrying former South African President Nelson Mandela leaves the Union Buildings after the final day of his lying in state in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday, December 13.
Nelson Mandela memorial service
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Nelson Mandela memorial service Photos: Nelson Mandela memorial service
Saying goodbye to Mandela
Qunu: Mandela's Resting Place

"Look, he loved these hills," his daughter, Maki Mandela, told CNN in an exclusive interview. "He really believed this is where he belonged."

His burial Sunday comes after 10 days of mourning.

Before Mandela's journey home, the ruling African National Congress bid him farewell Saturday morning at an air force base in Pretoria.

Members of the ruling party stood, bowed and prayed around his black, flag-draped casket.

"Icon of our struggle. Father of our nation," read a giant poster bearing a picture of a smiling Mandela.

His wife, Graca Machel, sat in the front row, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

"We will miss him, he was our leader in a special time. Go well, Tata," President Jacob Zuma said, using the Xhosa word for father. "You've played your part. You've made your contribution. We'll always remember you."

Helicopters hovered overhead as soldiers carried the casket into the military plane. It then took off for Qunu -- followed by fighter jets.

'He really wanted to die here'

Thousands of mourners lined the streets from the airport as Mandela's remains were brought to the remote village where he spent much of his childhood.

Mandela relished his time at the village, which is marked by endless open fields and velvety grass. It's where he herded cows and goats as a child; where his relatives are buried at the family farm.

"Even when my father was in jail, he had the most fondest memories of Qunu," Maki Mandela said. "And he really wanted to die here."

Intimate tributes

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the U.S. civil rights leader, told CNN that Saturday was "a day of painful celebration."

"People are beginning to realize what they've lost, but they know they've got so much left," said Jackson, referring to the sweeping political and social change achieved by the anti-apartheid leader. "They know what he left in place stays in place."

He was planning to attend Mandela's funeral Sunday, where the tributes were expected to be more intimate.

The military handed over his remains to elders at his home. And, in a symbol of the return of one of their own, the national flag that had covered his coffin was replaced with a lion skin, a traditional symbol of the Xhosa people.

At dusk, tribal leaders and men in his family held a private vigil to honor traditions of his native Thembu clan.

His casket was to lie overnight in his bedroom, which overlooks the hills and his grave site.

Inside Nelson Mandela's home
Mandela Photographer Reflects
'Fake Interpreter' may have criminal past

What to expect as Nelson Mandela is laid to rest

Small village, giant spotlight

Mandela died last week at age 95.

Events leading up to the burial included a memorial service Tuesday followed by three days of public viewing at Pretoria's Union Buildings, where he was sworn in as president in 1994.

About 100,000 people paid homage to Mandela during the three days he lay in state, government officials said.

The airport in East London, south of Qunu, will be used for their arrival and departure of dignitaries, with access closely controlled.

Thousands were expected to make the trip to Qunu for the burial, thrusting the remote village into the international spotlight. The guest list of foreign dignitaries included Britain's Prince Charles, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A private family prayer service will be held Sunday morning at Mandela's home. The funeral will take place in a white tent set up at the family farm.

The Mandela family, Zuma and the Cabinet members will be present along with local and foreign dignitaries. About 4,500 people are expected.

The military will again be charged with draping the flag over Mandela's coffin. Members of the military will perform a salute, and play the national anthem.

The burial

About 430 family and friends will walk to the grave site to say goodbye to the man many consider to be the father of their nation.

Mandela will be buried in the rocky soil of his childhood home.

The burial area has been built for him; some of Mandela's relatives are already buried there.

Security

Zuma has authorized nearly 12,000 members of the South African National Defence Force to serve alongside the police force.

A tight military cordon is expected around the funeral site.

As South Africa prepares to bury Nelson Mandela, young Africans are optimistic about the future

CNN's Robyn Curnow reported from the Mandela compound in Qunu, Faith Karimi wrote and reported from Atlanta and Laura Smith-Spark from London. CNN's Kim Norgaard contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 1728 GMT (0128 HKT)
Candles are lit under a portrait of Neslon Mandela before the funeral ceremony of South African former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu on December 15, 2013.
As 95 candles glowed in the background, mourners gathered for Nelson Mandela's state funeral Sunday.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
One candle burns for each year of Nelson Mandela's life, as family, friends, dignitaries and celebrities gather in his ancestral home, Qunu.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
CNN's Robyn Curnow is inside the Mandela family compound in Qunu as the state funeral service is ongoing.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
Don't expect the man who fought to end apartheid and then led South Africa as its first black president to spend eternity pushing up just daisies.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0350 GMT (1150 HKT)
Not only is Nelson Mandela the former president of South Africa, but he is also a father, grandfather and even a great-grandfather.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0413 GMT (1213 HKT)
Nelson Mandela once said his wife, Graca Machel, makes him "bloom like a flower."
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0849 GMT (1649 HKT)
South African pays tribute and thanks Nelson Mandela at the former leader's funeral in Qunu.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0845 GMT (1645 HKT)
South African President Jacob Zuma sings at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0725 GMT (1525 HKT)
Anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada spent 26 years imprisoned with his close friend and confidant Nelson Mandela.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT)
The coffin carrying Nelson Mandela's body arrived Saturday in his ancestral village of Qunu, where he'll be buried.
December 14, 2013 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Crowds gather as Nelson Mandela's funeral convoy arrives at Mthatha Airport in South Africa's Eastern Cape.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1932 GMT (0332 HKT)
Beloved icon Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on the farm where he grew up. CNN's Robyn Curnow gives an inside look.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1644 GMT (0044 HKT)
It might be timely to put aside out-of-date and ill-informed views of Africa, and see it the way Africans seem to: With a high level of optimism.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Mandela emerged from prison to lead his country out of racist apartheid rule with a message of reconciliation that inspired the world.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The late South African President reflects on his imprisonment and his fight against apartheid.
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
Nelson Mandela, hailed for leading South Africa out of apartheid, wanted to be remembered as part of a collective and not in isolation.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Nelson Mandela
From revolutionary to revered statesman, Nelson Mandela left his inspirational mark on the world.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2324 GMT (0724 HKT)
The only known footage of Nelson Mandela while at Robben Prison shows inside his cell and the former president in 1977.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1745 GMT (0145 HKT)
Mandela spent almost three decades in jail. But he had two Indian goddesses and a 17th century playwright for company.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
He was loved and admired the world over, profiled in books and movies. But even he has little-known facts buried in his biographies.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
A file photo showing South African Nelson Mandela taking the presidential oath on May 10, 1994 during his inauguration at the Union Building in Pretoria.
April 27, 1994, was the crowning moment in Nelson Mandela's life -- the day South Africa held its first elections open to citizens of every race.
From a village birth, to political activism, to prison and emergence as a worldwide leader.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2340 GMT (0740 HKT)
"No one is born hating another person ..." and more from Nelson Mandela in his own words
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT)
South African former President Nelson Mandela holds the Jules Rimet World cup, 15 May 2004 at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
"Sport has the power to change the world," Nelson Mandela once said -- and eloquently supported his claim.
June 27, 2013 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Browse through intimate images of Nelson Mandela, including the earliest known photograph believed to be taken in 1938.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
The Special AKA's "Free Nelson Mandela" became anti-apartheid anthem, and led to Mandela's release from prison after 27 years.
How will you remember Mandela? Send us your stories, memories and photographs.
ADVERTISEMENT