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Mandela Funeral Underway in South Africa Hometown

World | December 15, 2013, Sunday // 10:09| Views: 694 | Comments: 0
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Mandela Funeral Underway in South Africa Hometown: Mandela Funeral Underway in South Africa Hometown Nelson Mandela's portrait had been placed behind two rows of candles, on one of three stages, in his hometown of Qunu where he is buried Sunday with state honors. Photo EPA/BGNES

Nelson Mandela's state funeral is under way at his hometown of Qunu in the southeastern part of South Africa.

The funeral is a culmination of commemorations for the country's first black leader.

Some 4 500 people - including foreign dignitaries - are attending the service, which blends state ceremonial with traditional rituals.

The BBC reports that after the national anthem was sung, the service heard from a family spokesman, Chief Matanzima.

A close friend, Ahmed Kathrada, and two grandchildren also addressed the congregation.

African National Congress members, veterans of the fight against apartheid and foreign dignitaries - including several African presidents, the Prince of Wales - are among the guests.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu - a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela - is there, having earlier said he had cancelled his flight as he had not received an invitation. US talk show host Oprah Winfrey is also present.

Listening to the tributes were Graca Machel, Mandela's widow, and his second wife, Winnie-Madikizela Mandela, who sat either side of President Jacob Zuma.

Mandela died on 5 December aged 95.

Members of his family attended an overnight vigil, with a traditional praise singer believed to be chanting details of his long journey and life.

One of the world's most prominent human rights activists, Mandela will be buried next to his parents and three of his late children.

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