In Pictures: Mandela’s life | Al Jazeera The South African leader rose from rural obscurity to become one of the world's most respected and loved figures.



Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, a descendant of the king of the Thembu people. Growing up as a shepherd boy, he said he inherited his father’s “stubborn sense of fairness”, drifting into political activism in the 1940s after earning his university degree.

He was arrested in 1956 for “high treason” against the state for his anti-apartheid activities with the African National Congress, but was later released. He went on to help found the armed wing of the political group, inspired in guerilla warfare by the writings of Che Guevara.

In 1961, the armed wing carried out 57 bombings. He was re-arrested the following year and was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people,” he said while on trial in 1963. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.”