QUNU,South Africa - While behind apartheid prison bars, Nelson Mandela longed for the rolling hills of Qunu, his boyhood stomping ground dotted with homesteads and grazing animals.
It was here, in South Africa's rural hinterland, that the man who went on to shape the destiny of a country took up his first responsibility as a herd boy aged just five.
The young Mandela's days were filled with stick-fighting, sipping warm milk from cows' udders, fishing and sliding down a rocky slope with friends.
Bed was a mat on the floor of one of the three thatched, mud-walled round huts in his mother's homestead. Meals were cooked on open fires with food harvested from the family garden.
"From these days I date my love of the veld (grassland), of open spaces, the simple beauties of nature, the clean lines of the horizon," Mandela wrote in his memoir "Long Walk to Freedom".
Qunu, he said in an unpublished draft of the memoir, was "the sweet home where I had spent the happiest days of my childhood."
It was also where he got his English name "Nelson" on his first day at school, to which he wore a cut-off pair of his father's trousers to replace the blanket that village boys wore.
From his Robben Island jail in 1970, Mandela wrote poignantly of his country roots and said he had never "succeeded in shaking off my peasant background," despite moving away long before his arrest and conviction.