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Flowers, Tributes Outside Mandela Home Showcase Rainbow Nation

Ten-year-old Jason tells reporter Thuso Khumalo about how he met Nelson Mandela, Houghton, Dec. 8, 2013. (Jennie Smith for VOA)
A veritable mountain of flowers, condolence cards and burning candles have piled up outside Nelson Mandela’s house in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, as thousands of people continue to mourn the iconic leader, who died last week.

The riotously colorful flowers - and the diverse group of people delivering them - truly illustrate what Mandela affectionately dubbed “the Rainbow Nation.”

Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95, after a longtime battle with a recurring lung infection.

The flowers mirror South Africa’s colourful flag: green, yellow, red and white flowers dominate, while blue and purple refuse to be overshadowed.

Nelson Mandela Memorial Observances
Nelson Mandela Memorial Observances
Meaningful remembrances

Hundreds of messages left by mourners add meaning.

A message from Alessio reads, “You will never be forgotten.” Dharma Naidoo and his family wrote, “Thank you for the job well done.” A yellow T-shirt hanging on the flowers summed it up: “Thank you for making South Africa a better place.”

Hundreds of candles burn next to the flowers. Those who bring them say they are a symbol of peace, signifying the brightness they saw in Nelson Mandela’s life.

Zizipho Sogawula works in the suburb of Houghton, not far from Mandela’s house. During tea break on Monday morning she decided to walk to the house, and like many others, the flowers and burning candles attracted her attention.

“It’s touching. There are actually hundreds of candles here. They are still burning and it means that his spirit still lives on," said Sogawula. "It’s only when you are here that you really get emotional seeing all these tributes and all these flowers from everyone. I think it’s very admirable, I like it.”

Flowers are piled up outside Nelson Mandela's Houghton home in Johannesburg, Dec. 8, 2013. (Thuso Khumalo for VOA)
Flowers are piled up outside Nelson Mandela's Houghton home in Johannesburg, Dec. 8, 2013. (Thuso Khumalo for VOA)
Enormous outpouring

Tracy Nail and her two daughters, Jody and Emma, added three bunches of flowers to the pile. “I brought my girls here to put flowers down for Madiba [Mandela's clan name], because I feel that it’s very important that they know the history of our country. I think his death has unified us all again and helped us to be more positive about the future and just make us remember everything that he stood for and how important it is to just keep on believing in that.”

Ten-year-old Jason Smith came with his mother to deliver flowers and an enlarged photograph of himself, his brother Kevin and Nelson Mandela, taken two years ago when his family visited the world icon at his Qunu home.

Smith said the memory of that visit is still fresh in his mind. “I saw the security guards and then his grandson called me and my family to meet him, and he was lying down in his chair, I felt so happy that I saw Nelson Mandela, I’m so sad that he passed away,” he said.

Some 80,000 people are expected to fill up a massive soccer stadium in Johannesburg’s Soweto suburb on Tuesday for Mandela’s memorial service.

His body will then lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for three days, before being laid to rest Sunday at Mandela’s rural home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape Province.