By Jean Liou (AFP)
23 minutes ago
Johannesburg — He has had streets, parks, a landfill and even a non-existent sub-atomic particle named after him: rarely has a man been so honoured during his lifetime as Nelson Mandela.
Long before Mandela’s death brought a global outpouring of tributes to the man who led South Africa out of apartheid, his name had been memorialised on places, projects and discoveries ranging from the profound to the quirky.
Whether on flowers, a prehistoric bird, a slum or his own UN-endorsed day, from South Africa to Europe to the Americas and beyond, Mandela’s name is ubiquitous.
In July 2012, French and German biologists who had discovered the fossil of a prehistoric woodpecker — the oldest ever found on the African continent — baptised it Australopicus nelsonmandelai.
“We have named the new species after Nelson Mandela — a sort of scientific present for his 94th birthday,” said Albrecht Manegold from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt.
In 2005, a Dutch horticultural company named a line of chrysanthemums “Madiba”, the clan name by which Mandela is affectionately known.
There is also a Madiba protea plant in South Africa whose hot pink flowers bloom between August and October.
And in 1994, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town named a yellow variety of strelitzia, or bird of paradise flower, “Mandela’s Gold”.
The honour came the same year Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president, and just four years after he was freed from nearly three decades in prison for his fight against white-minority rule.
In 1973 — when Mandela was still in jail on Robben Island — researchers at the University of Leeds in Britain named a newly discovered nuclear particle for him.
But it turned out their equipment was faulty and the “discovery” actually wasn’t.
The West Yorkshire city of Leeds decided in 2001 to pay another tribute to Mandela when he visited, holding a rededication ceremony for public gardens that had been named in his honour two decades earlier.
Mandela mistakenly told the crowd of 5,000 people how pleased he was to be in Liverpool.
Then 82, he thanked the “people of Liverpool” — located about 70 miles (115 kilometres) distant — for making him an honorary citizen of “this famous city”.
But few harboured any hard feelings, and the local authority this week paid tribute to an “extraordinary man” whose visit to the town was “an enormous honour”.
In British TV series “Only Fools and Horses”, which aired from 1981 to 2003, the main characters lived in the Nelson Mandela House high-rise block. And a statue of him was erected outside the British parliament in 2007.
The list of tributes also includes the airport in Cape Verde’s capital, Praia; a favela, or shantytown, in Rio de Janeiro; and the Mandela landfill in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, which regularly frightens locals by catching fire.
In 2009, the United Nations declared his birthday, July 18, Nelson Mandela International Day, calling on people around the world to spend 67 minutes helping others on that date each year, in memory of Mandela’s 67 years of public service.
As Mandela’s body was carried to lie in state this week, it was transported to the newly rebaptised Nelson Mandela amphitheatre via Madiba Street, crossing Nelson Mandela Drive.
In Eastern Cape province, where he will be laid to rest Sunday, the main municipality is named Nelson Mandela Bay.
And the tributes aren’t finished. Public gardens now under construction in central Paris are to be named for Mandela, as is a square in central Berlin.
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