QUNU — Anti-apartheid champion Nelson Mandela was buried in his home village on Sunday after a funeral that mixed ancient tribal rituals with a display of the might of the new, integrated South Africa.
Military officers, both black and white, rolled Mandela's flag-draped coffin to the family burial plot in the village of Qunu. Formations of planes and military helicopters, South African flags flapping from the bellies, flew over the green hills where thousands of mourners had gathered.
Unlike a public memorial service on Tuesday at a stadium that was rife with problems, the funeral and burial — broadcast on many TV channels — went smoothly, although behind schedule. The ceremonies mixed solemnity with joy at Mandela's accomplishments, lasted all morning and into the afternoon and were fit for African royalty. Mandela, South Africa's first black president, is descended from royalty.
Several thousand gathered in a huge white tent at the Mandela family compound for the state funeral that preceded a private service at the gravesite. Songs, speeches and the boom of artillery rang across the fields and a tribal chief draped in animal skin declared: "A great tree has fallen."
Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail as a prisoner of the racist white government and emerged to lead a delicate transition to democracy, died on Dec. 5 at the age of 95 after a long illness.