“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.” Desmond Tutu
One of the most sublime moments of my life was getting a hug from Desmond Tutu.
While making a quirky Desmond Tutu Pop Art Mannequin for Jeff Jafffe, owner of Pop International Gallery in New York I was reminded of a beautiful story that unfolded when he spoke in Brisbane with Dave Andrews, a social justice activist and friend, so so many years ago in the early 1990’s.
Desmond Tutu was the guest of the Mayor, and thousands had gathered to hear him speak in the centre of Brisbane.
At one point during the large public event in King George Square there had been a loud and angry confrontation by an aboriginal elder challenging the cultural right of the officially invited indigenous dancers to perform a certain dance as part of the formal welcoming ceremony.
As they began their magical performance, he had pushed onstage, enraged, shouting his objections. It was a very awkward moment… the crowd shuffled, and the dancers fell silent while the angry man and his group were noisily escorted away by security, and official events resumed.
The original dancers restarted their performance, visibly shaken, but determined to give their best on this powerful day.
Tutu went on to deliver an inspirational message about grace, justice and unity, culminating in the large crowd waving their hands together symbolizing his oft repeated mantra of the ‘rainbow people of god’. A characteristically Tutu-ian message; inspirational, charming and uplifting.
The event finished, and the large crowds wandered off, leaving about a dozen of us remaining in the square when Desmond Tutu quietly slipped back out from City Hall, and asked to meet with the elder who had been so aggrieved. Someone found him and brought him over and Tutu spoke with him for a while.
Then, right there in the midst of our tiny group, he invited the man to perform his sacred cultural dance personally, intimately, there just for us.
I’ll always remember the sacredness of that moment vividly in my mind as our tiny group then sat down in a circle, cross legged with Desmond Tutu in the now deserted square, while the man, in his everyday street clothing, danced his traditional dance with all the passion he had in him, his anger transformed in the face of grace.