Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

Discovering Identity Through History

July 16th, 2009 8 comments

sa_schoolI was attending a private school from the age of 3. My brother and sister, both younger than me, soon joined the same school. This meant that my parents, both of whom were schoolteachers, had to work very hard to ensure that they could make ends meet. This also mean that there was no time for them to sit us down and explain the countries political climate, especially since it would mean that they would destroy our otherwise wonderful lives. I was very happy living in my little bubble, completely oblivious to the reality, which was South Africa.

Historically it has always been the upper class that has the luxury to sit and discuss political issues, laws and whatever else may tickle their fancy. On the whole the working class is far too busy dealing with the reality and trying to survive from day to day. So my parents lived the reality so that we may relish the fantasy. I enjoyed a childhood the way any child should. I had friends of all different races and I would attend their parties and even go to the odd sleep over. I grew older and I discovered women. Looking back I notice that I actually only had white girlfriends and they ranged from Italian and Jewish girls to Afrikaans girls.

Of course there were incidents that could have tipped me off, such as stay aways, the constant police harassment, marches and the occasional ‘toy toy’. Even when Nelson Mandela was released, I didn’t truly understand the magnitude of it all. This would all change because we would soon be studying South Africa in History…

thsUp until now my life read like a happy E True Hollywood Story. I had come from nothing, but because of opportunities made available by my parents (through immense sacrifice) I was now a quasi-TV Star. With appearances on KTV, Kids Cooking and Kids Can, I was earning good money, loving all the attention and I was re-defining the term ‘living it up!’ Every circle I socialized in was within its own bubble and this kept me ‘protected’ from ‘the truth’. These were the days when I was just another teen having a great time. Things were less complicated because we were all just ‘Redhillians’, playing together, learning together and sticking together. Unfortunately for us, things were about to fall apart!

I recall the day when I was sitting in History and we began tackling the subject of South African History. With each lesson, layer after protective layer was being peeled off and the truth was beginning to rear its ugly head- and it was hideous! I remember how we (the fortunate black students) began talking amongst ourselves about how messed up the country was. Some of our peers began feeling superior to us. We had no right to be treated like this because we were South African dammit! Thus began the rude awakening, which also marked the departure of a new journey of self-discovery…

Traversing The Divide

July 6th, 2009 19 comments

townshipThere is no greater burden than the burden of opportunity. That is the best way to sum up the emotion underpinning the day I first realised I was truly South African. Never discounting the sacrifices of those to afford us the liberties we now all have, the challenges still remaining cannot be ignored. The first two sentences sound overly political, for which I apologise, but follow me here: sitting with a group of friends fast approaching the end of high school and discussing what our future plans were, most of them spoke as if their plans were limited to that which they could do, as opposed to that which they wanted to do. Some spoke of working in mines, others banks (as tellers) and the others resolute to whatever they could get. Here I was plotting how to get my record label off the ground, as well as the additional businesses I had in mind, and also when exactly I intended on actually getting round to university. Two very different sets of outlooks, obviously.

See, the thing is, I grew up very well educated and with tons of opportunity that my mother worked hard for. Political developments meant that my generation was the first generation whose formative years were spent in suburbia and who went to “model c” schools. Yet, obviously, one’s entire history does not move in one generation, and therefore I spent my entire holidays in a township called Thlabane on the outskirts of Rustenburg. So I had two sets of friends whose worlds never mixed, my friends in the hood and my friends in the ‘burbs. As a result, two sets of outlooks, two sets of perceptions, two sets of expectations and perceived entitlement.

suburb_2My story, not being at all as unique as it sounds in writing, meant I was exposed to two worlds – at times wholly different and at times overlapping more than some think. Yet, the whole “feeling South African” stems from realising that not only is this country’s greatest challenge general disparities, but also the human condition. The liberal in me believes that all should have the same opportunities sensitive only to their ambition and not to their social condition. It also stems from the realisation that nowhere in the world can people – individuals and groups – do more remarkable things than in this country. South Africans are awash with opportunity within the bounds of the most remarkable (borderline unbelievable) culture, and maybe, just maybe, as South Africans, our identity stems from this.