Astana Celebrates Nelson Mandela Day

ASTANA – Astana residents and visitors celebrated fifth annual Nelson Mandela International Day, also known as Mandela Day, on July 18 at the Radisson Hotel in Astana.

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South African Ambassador Shirish Soni and Adviser to Head of the Agip Caspian Sea Co. Francesco Bentivegna performed together an epic tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The celebration was organized by the South African Embassy in cooperation with the Embassy of India and included two events.

One of the events was a free yoga and meditation master class for stress management taught by invited yoga guru from India Dr. Ganesh Ayyar and a yoga instructor from Astana’s Yoga Room, as well as by Ruweida Soni, spouse of South African Ambassador Shirish Soni. Participants spent 67 minutes improving their peace of mind and self-esteem.

“As you may know, there is a tradition on Mandela Day to spend 67 minutes, which corresponds to 67 years of his public serrvice, helping those in need or doing something good and useful. That’s why it was decided to present the people who came here today 67 minutes of yoga so they can help themselves to get rid of the stress and feel peaceful and joyful in this brilliant day,” said Dr. Ayyar.

The celebration’s other main event was a concert, dinner and photo exhibition dedicated to the life of Nelson Mandela. The dinner opened with remarks by Ambassador Soni who wished Mandela a happy 95th birthday and good health. Mandela is currently in a hospital fighting a lung infection but is reported to be improving.

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Shirish Soni, South African Ambassador and his spouse Ruweida Soni (centre) hosted the event under the motto: “Make Every Day a Mandela Day!”

“As we all know, Mr. Mandela is currently in the hospital. Thanks to the prayers and love from friends all over the world, he was able to withstand all the difficulties to be with us to celebrate his birthday,” said Soni, quoting a letter sent to him by South African politician and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada who spent time in prison with Mandela as a result of Kathrada’s political activity. In his letter, Kathrada noted that the “Dedication to Nelson Mandela” project was launched in Kazakhstan in June 2012 and expressed his strong support for the expansion of the project. Kathrada also wrote about his request to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support establishing memorials, renaming streets and parks and organizing a special prayer dedicated to Mandela.

Soni also thanked those in attendance for participating.

Ruweida Soni also sang happy birthday before a special birthday cake was cut and musicians performed world pop hits.

Nelson Mandela Day, proclaimed by the UN five years ago, is an event celebrated by individuals and organizations around world. The day remembers Mandela’s achievements in working for democracy, human rights, peace and conflict resolution. Activities usually include sport, art, education, music and cultural events under the motto, “Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day a Mandela Day!” The day is meant to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared.