SUPPORTERS of Nelson Mandela sang out a message of how he changed their lives to Sunderland shoppers.
South Africans living in the city gathered in Market Square, with others who fought apartheid, to perform songs and dance.
The group held placards and wore T-shirts bearing the 95-year-old’s image in tribute to the former South African president, who died on December 5.
He was buried at his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape region on Saturday after lying in state in Pretoria.
Connie Chauke, a urology nurse at Sunderland Royal Hospital, moved to Wearside from Johannesburg 14 years ago and helped organise the event.
She said: “I feel as if I have lost my own daddy. This man did so much for the country – he brought the country together, he brought peace, he built it up. Here, we have said thank you for Madiba (name of the clan to which Mandela belonged).”
Vincent Happy Mnisi, 43, an author, first came to Sunderland 12 years ago to study, and has settled in Easington Lane.
He met Mandela while employed by an advertising agency which worked with the African National Congress.
Vincent, who spent time in exile in Zimbabwe because of apartheid, said: “I heard about him when I was a kid in exile, and when I was 15, I decided I was going to meet him.
“When I was 25, I did, and he said to me: ‘You’re Vincent Mnisi.’
“He had heard my name before and said: ‘You have done good work for us.’ He was incredible. He was an inspiration for me.”
On Wednesday, Sunderland Minister’s Reverend Chris Howson, who also joined Saturday’s city centre event, will lead a celebration for Mandela and others who fought apartheid, from 6pm to 8pm.
A book of condolence will remain open until 4pm today in the library and arts centre in Fawcett Street.
The tributes will then be sent on to the South Africa High Commission in London.