When I travel overseas, I often ask myself what note South Africa rings throughout the world. Brazil has celebration, America its national pride, India its spiritual heritage. As South Africans we need to acknowledge and expound on that which makes our country uniquely fascinating, as well as deeply endearing. Without doubt, the song that Mzansi sings throughout the world is that of diversity.
Although the term “Rainbow Nation” is now hackneyed, with its twee connotation, it remains the truest expression of this country and its people. The real legacy Madiba left our melting pot of a country is the ideal of harmonious existence – every individual echoing a unique tone, culminating in harmony across peoples, planes and perspectives. Each voice, each vibration is intrinsically linked to the other in a unique and resounding national chorus.
I consider myself a bit of a spokesperson for my homeland and through my writing, photography and during my travels I attempt to lure foreigners to our shores. The physical beauty of this country is immense and unending in its myriad variations. When in doubt, a picture of the majesty of Table Mountain or the Kruger National Park’s epic Big Five are a sure way to convince even the most unlikely of visitors and, if not those images, there’s always the top-class wines and culinary haunts for those in need of more hedonistic persuasion.
What I observe in the eyes of newcomers to SA is a flickering appreciation beyond mere adoration for their surroundings. Without fail, the story that is so often recounted to me is of the burgeoning love of the South African people and the overwhelmingly warm heart rooted in the core of our being.
Through creative storytelling – be it writing, photography or the depiction of my life as a young black South African through Instagram – it is this South Africa I want the world to know about and share.
I recently showed Oscar-winning US documentary and filmmaker Alex Gibney around Cape Town, and I was struck by how the moments that resonated most with him were his meetings with the local people. His encounter with soul vocalist Fancy Galada from Langa stirred him far more than his first sighting of Table Mountain, which he admitted was one of the most spectacular things he’d ever seen, but he said our people are one of a kind.
Months earlier, another Oscar winner, Alicia Vikander had expressed similar sentiments when discussing this country. She didn’t tire of recounting how she had grown attached to the bright-eyed children she’d encountered during her eight months of filming here. So much so that she asked for ideas on how to get involved with an education foundation to help impoverished children. It wasn’t simply their plight that moved it, it was also their infectious and unbreakable spirit.
We are a country of profound resilience and unbreakable optimism, yet we are totally subsumed with the panic and shame induced by the evening news or the latest crime statistics. Although these facts inevitably remain fact, they need not diminish our ownership of light, love and levity. Ultimately, it is this positive, life-affirming nature that draws people to our land and in honouring, owning and amplifying this message lies the key to our growth on every imaginable level.
Images courtesy of Seth Shezi