FORT GREENE — As former anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela spends his 95th birthday in the hospital, the owners of the Dekalb Avenue restaurant named in his honor plan to light and release sky lanterns to mark the day.
Madiba Restaurant, named after Mandela's clan, has been celebrating the former South African president's birthday since it opened in 1999.
"This restaurant was built on Nelson Mandela's ideals of love," said Madiba manager Denis Du Preez. "It doesn't matter if we light a candle, put a flower out or just put up a picture on his birthday — it's about the people that come here and rejoice with us and celebrate our hero."
Du Preez said that when his brother Mark Henegan, originally from South Africa, opened the popular Fort Greene eatery, it was the first South African restaurant on the East Coast.
Its South African cuisine is well-known by locals and tourists who love the traditional Cape Malay bobotie (a beef and curry casserole), the ostrich carpaccio and the spicy curries.
This year the restaurant will release 50 lanterns into the sky accompanied by live music from the South African Allstars.
"Madiba Restaurant has become a church for many people in this neighborhood," Du Preez said. "This event is about honoring our inspiration."
Mandela Day events take place on Thursday July 18 and start at 6:30 with free Brooklyn Lager and a meet-and-greet with state Sen. Eric Adams, who is running for Brooklyn Borough President.