Author Archive

Racism Tastes Sugary

September 7th, 2009 20 comments

agpleezIt’s the little things that get me.

For the last fifteen years we’ve heard all about Apartheid. In fact, I’d be willing to wager a small amount that in the last decade and a half, people have used every possible medium to spout the varied evils of the previous administration. From the Newspaper headlines screaming “Third Force at work!” to flowery speeches on the television assuring us that the new administration is diametrically opposed to every single nuance of governance that came before, a lot has been shoved in our faces about how evil Apartheid was.

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Om Die Rooinek Te Vererg

August 25th, 2009 20 comments

dictionaryI’m afraid that since I left school Afrikaans has been nothing more than an annoying ex. You know the one – you don’t want to talk to them, they don’t want to talk to you and you can’t believe you were ever with them.

It’s not that I have anything particular against Afrikaans – I’m just glad I no longer have to speak it. I simply wasn’t built to get around all the difficult sounds. I can’t brrrei – it comes out all flat and horrible sounding. Although I can fully understand quite a lot, pronouncing the title of this piece sounds like I’m trying to speak with marbles in my mouth. In fact, I firmly believe that the whole language was created as a weapon against the British.

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Categories: Afrikaans Tags: , ,

The Old Man And The Stransky

July 20th, 2009 4 comments

It turns out that being an eight year old isn’t something you do when you’re eight. It’s what you do when you’re twenty-seven and trying like hell to think of your childhood.

mandelaI don’t have a good memory. By my reckoning, I remember roughly half of my life. That’s not to say I don’t have a timeline fixed in my head – it’s just that the memories are more of a thin veneer and kind of like those infomercial products that look so good but really don’t stand up to close scrutiny.

There are two vivid memories that fit this category and coincidentally are the two events that proved to me, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was a South African.

The first took place in front of a small TV set in 1990 in a small Eastern Cape town.

I remember seeing an old but vital man walking at the head of a crowd of people. Dressed in a quite plain gray suit, he carried himself with a strange dignity. Even so, there are many dignified people in the world and surely it takes more than that to get on TV? I’m a naturally curious person so of course I asked and I distinctly remember having the whole thing explained to me. I knew to some degree about Apartheid and the tragedies that had beset the country but it had always seemed so distant to me, almost unreal. The last thing I remember about that day was the small, quiet feeling of pride I had, an inclusion in something so much bigger than myself, and the fading lyrics of a song.

And the seagull’s name was Nelson,Nelson who came from the sea.

Time passed and South Africans went to the polls to give democracy a chance. I grew up a little and learned more about the country and how we got to where we were. By the time my second memory was being made wherever it is that memories are created, Nelson had moved quite far from his plain gray suit. As President of a country that seemed to have no limit, he had risen into the world spotlight and broken open a stillness that had encased South Africa for far too long.

stranskyThe world had finally recognized us as a sports playing nation and boy, we were glad. I’ve never been a sports fan but this impressed even me. Five years after Nelson had been freed, I sat with millions of South Africans as the world took our measure. We waited, eyes fixed on the television, barely breathing, to see if we’d be found worthy.

I think it’s quite possible that the collective concentration of South Africa has never been as galvanised, so centred as it was on that day. I often wonder what would have happened if the ball had gone the other way. If New Zealand had scored one more time or if Joel Stransky’s foot had slipped on his approach. Would South Africa be as collected as it is now? Would we be in the same position, would so much have been expected of us? Would I and countless others feel like we were part of something bigger – even just for a day?

Because man, when Joel Stransky’s magic foot landed that final drop goal, I all but exploded with pride. I’m sure millions of South Africans agree that on that day, in that hour we were untouchable. South Africa’s future spread out bright and golden into the horizon and for the first time ever, I really felt like I belonged here.

I may not have a good memory and I may be missing half my life but I’ll be damned if I ever forget that.