ANC supporters attend the funeral ceremony of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu. ODD ANDERSEN/Photo: AFP

Qunu - Guests stood, sang and danced shortly before the state funeral of former president Nelson Mandela at a specially constructed dome in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, on Sunday.

ANC Women's League members wearing their customary green dresses were the first to begin singing. Other people then began blowing whistles before standing up and dancing.

Britain's Prince Charles arrived at the venue for the state funeral of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.

Dressed in a blue suit, he was flanked by security officials and surrounded by photographers.

Malawian President Joyce Banda arrived soon afterwards.

ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, who was imprisoned with Mandela, former human settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale, and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa were present, as was former president Thabo Mbeki and a host of Cabinet ministers.

Also attending were Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and SA Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus.

US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and US ambassador Patrick Gaspard took their seats, alongside businessman Patrice Motsepe.

Inside the dome, purple chairs were placed in front of a stage lined with two rows of candles and a portrait of Mandela.

Black seats were designated for international delegates and special guests.

About 5000 people were expected to attend the funeral in Mandela's home village, where he spent much of his childhood.

After the state funeral, the AbaThembu will receive the body to bury it according to royal protocol.

Mandela will be buried next to his relatives at the family gravesite in a private and more intimate ceremony. - Sapa