They came through the frigid weather Sunday night, hundreds of sons and daughters of Africa, to pay tribute to a teacher who had brought the world a universal message of humanity.
It was standing room only at the second Mandela tribute this weekend, held at the Ethiopian Cultural Centre on Selkirk Avenue.
A lively memorial of drumming and singing from Winnipeg's African communities paid tribute to Africa's greatest son, Nelson Mandela, whose 10-day mourning ended Sunday with his burial in his South African home village of Qunu.
Here in Winnipeg, the first event to pay tribute to the anti-apartheid champion was held Saturday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
On Sunday, the event opened with prayers, then speeches from dignitaries, including Manitoba Multicultural Minister Flor Macelino and Mayor Sam Katz. They were followed by leaders of the African communities, who recalled the anti-apartheid leader as a teacher with a universal message for humanity.
"Tonight it's a celebration. We are here to rejoice, celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela and we're going to do it the African way," said Frank Indome, board member of the African Communities of Manitoba Inc., which organized the event. The umbrella organization represents around 25 African groups and hosts a Folklorama pavilion every year.
Celebrating the African way meant drumming and singing with some of the communities' best-known drummers.
Evans Coffie held a small hand drum that drew sounds like thunder and rain, ending on a single throbbing beat he paced out as he slowly walked down the central aisle of the centre. The hall, with 150 people in seats and many more standing, responded with respectful silence.
Another drummer, Kabiru Fujumelody, nodded the piece was a tribute to Mandela, a traditional way to send a spirit home.
"A mini-tribute to send him home; that's one segment I'm going to be doing. In my country, depending on whether you are Christian or Muslim, there is a song and drumming, a tribute to send someone home," said the drummer from Nigeria.
The evening ended with a call for donations and pledges toward the launch of a Mandela Student Bursary Fund.
Indome said the choice of fund was a tribute to Mandela's strong belief in education as the surest path to political freedom.
"We left our countries because of troubles there, and even though we are here, we still have issues. His message tells us to step up, and when we do we will have an impact on the African community in this city," Indome said.
Each bursary from the initial donations will be $500 per student.