28 Up South Africa: A More Fitting Tribute To Nelson Mandela Than the Usual Guff
28 UP is the greatest TV franchise ever created. It’s not the one that has made the most money or the most famous but it is the greatest, a true document of human experience that has stretched across decades and charted its beautiful, broken, bruised and buoyant quality. The children of the original Up series are now adults, some have stuck with the show throughout, others have come and gone from the frame. Their lives have opened up to us every 7 years and for many those ‘characters’ have been anchor points in their own lives.
28 Up South Africa accidentally arrived this week at a striking time. Nelson Mandela’s death fresh in my mind I watched the reality of modern South Africa for the children of apartheid, the generation that has been stalked by and brutalised by the dread hand of HIV and AIDS. Mandela changed South Africa forever but he was not and could not be a saint or a superhero. In his final moments, he will have been justified in smiling at what he helped usher in with sheer force of will and determination but also carrying a heaviness in his heart that inequality and pain still dog his people, both black and white, so relentlessly.
It strikes me that 28 Up is also a fitting number, close as it is to the 27 years Mandela spent imprisoned. The children-turned-adults of 28 Up have lived free though not pain-free lives. They have grown up in the South Africa of Mandela, the country he worked so tirelessly to create. They are the children of Mandela and their experiences represent both the joy and progress of his nation and the continuing horror and strife. Like Mandela – a fighter and a peacemaker, a prisoner and a president – South Africa cannot be boiled down to a simple answer, a log line on the progress of a people. 28 Up is a must watch because it will tell you far more about what Mandela achieved and still had left to do than any gushing tribute from a dewey-eyed reporter with one eye on their awards cabinet.