Early Life

Nelson Mandela arrived in the world on 18 July 1918 in Mvezo Village, in South Africa's Cape Province (Umatutu). He was given the name Rlihlahla, meaning beloved troublemaker. As he grew, people used his Madiba clan name. His paternal great-grandfather, Ngubengcuka, ruled the Thembu tribe in the Transkeian Territory in today's eastern Cape Province.

Nelson MandelaHis great-grandfather, a king, had a son called Mandela. The name was used as the family name. Mandela was born of an Ixhiba clan wife. As a 'left-hand house,' the children descended from this family branch could not inherit the throne. They were considered born to advisory roles or councillorship. Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, Nelson Mandela's father, was appointed as a councillor to the king in 1915. The departing councillor was accused of illegal acts by a white officer of the state. In 1926, Mandela's father Gadla was also released after an accusation of improper dealings and corruption. Nelson later learned his father lost the job for daring to contest the official's wrongful demands.

Gadla had four wives as a congregant of the fertility-minded Qamata (son of Thixo, the sun god, and Jobela, the goddess of earth). He fathered 13 children. The Mandela children were scattered in various South African villages. Nelson's mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was Gadla's third wife. She was the daughter of the legitimate 'Right-hand house' and amaMpemvu Xhosa clan.

Nelson Mandela's early years dominated by the old ways of South Africa. He tended cattle as a young boy and felt at ease outdoors. He was educated at a Methodist Christian school until early grade school and was baptised a Protestant. He was given the name Nelson by Miss Mdingane, a teacher. At age nine, Mandela's father died of an unknown disease. The loss of his father registered quite deeply. He admired the father's "rebelliousness" and sense of fair dealings. His mother then brought Mandella to Mghekezweni, the Great Place, where he was made a guardian of the king, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. His love of the Christian faith intensified during childhood and teen years as he attended Sunday services. He studied African history, along with English, geography and Xhosa and grew to love the rich African verbal tradition passed down through the elders. At 16 years, he traveled to Tyhalarha with schoolmates for the symbolic circumcision ceremony marking his transition to manhood. He was named "Daliunga."