Friday, July 3, 2009

Trafalgar Square, South Africa House, London, England - 2009

More on my recent visit to England:

Trafalgar Square and the South Africa House

I have many memories of  Trafalgar Square in London,  for reasons which most of the tourists will probably know nothing about. This is the area dedicated to the memory of Lord Nelson. But in my personal memory it is the place that I, along with thousands of other protesters, went to demonstrate and speak out against  South Africa's policy of  apartheid. We camped out on the steps  of the South Africa House.
 We protested here for many years.

Vigils were held 24 hours a day and yes, we slept on the steps. 
There were days  when we wondered if we were ever going to make a difference but we never gave up. 
We protested the detainment of Nelson Mandela  and the unfair treatment of all people of color in  South Africa.  You know the rest of the story. 

South Africa House

In 1961, South Africa became a republic, and withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations due to its policy of racial segregation. The first democratic elections in South Africa were held on the 27th April 1994, and on 31 May of that year, the country rejoined the Commonwealth, 33 years to the day after it withdrew.

The statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson - 
stands high above the traffic at Trafalgar square.
It was reported that his last words as he lay dying were
 "Thank God I have done my duty for God and my country." 
He was buried at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Trafalgar Square

Several roads lead to Trafalgar Square, and the vehicles  appear to be in a perpetual traffic jam. On the day that I was visiting the monument I stumbled upon an unexpected adventure. The area was crowded. Thousands of people were in attendance and I presumed that they must be demonstrating for some cause or another. But no, it turns out that I was unknowingly taking part in  a  massive karaoke sing-a-long in Trafalgar Square as part of T-Mobile’s new advert. 

I heard on the news later that evening that the singer "P!nk" was the main attraction  and that more than 15,000 people were singing along together in the middle of London –  yes, I was one of them -it was so much fun!
The four lions, by Sir Edwin Landseer
at the column's base were added in 1867.

Part of the monument built in memory of  the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) which was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and the Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition (August-December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). 

Here is a shot of a small portion of the crowd gathered for the commercial. Check out the Yahoo Video link at the end of this post to view the actual event.

More views of the crowd  with St. Martin-in-the-Fields (1722) in the background, 
a church  has been standing on this site since the thirteenth century. 

Nelson's Column

The column was built between 1840 and 1843 to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The 18 ft statue of Nelson stands on top of a 151 ft column. 
He faces south looking towards the Admiralty, with the Mall on his right flank, where Nelson's ships are represented on the top of each flagpole.

 I can’t help wondering “Why is he elevated so high up? Is it like some of the tallest steeples that members of the churches  believed that, the higher the steeple,
 the closer you are to God? "
When I think of modern day history I wonder what beloved  hero would we place on such a high column for eternity? Who would you put up there - Let me know. :-)

The National Gallery 
The National Gallery in London overlooks Trafalgar Square and has  5 million  visitors  each
year. It  houses a rich collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.   The Raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano del Piombo was officially the first painting to enter the Gallery when it was founded in 1824.

Another wonderful day filled with the nostalgia of the memories of the  Anti-Apartheid movement  and realization that in some small way we did good, and our efforts had contributed to making some changes in the world. 

The day was also mingled  with laughter and enjoyment of the unexpected pleasures in life. 
The mixing of the history of the past hundreds of years is also comfortable with a modern day cell phone  advertisement.
If you take time to watch the yahoo video you may  notice one of the things that I love about London. The crowd is made up of many cultures, complexions, generations (young and older) and even though the British are often known as  'reserved'  - we love to have fun. 
Hey, I didn't say we could sing well :-)


Here is the link to the T-Mobile Sing-along Trafalgar Square. 
The exclusive 4 minute extended version of the moment more than 15,000 people sang 'Hey Jude' together in Trafalgar Square. Everyone involved came along with  no idea how the event would unfold:

Yes, I am on it - can you find me ? :-)

photos by peacesojourner

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