Avalon again 2005

Avalon again 2005
Spirits

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What does it really mean? "Proudly South African"?

Dear Themba, you raise a very interesting issue-what it means to be a "proudly South African". Despite the fact that you do not elaborate a lot on that, it is interesting that one is aware of the controversial meaning of that term. I will tell you what I think very briefly.
For me, the term "South African identity" is problematic, because not everybody in this country fully understands or appreciates the vaue of the so-called "South African identity". As anyone can see, some people still live in big nice houses, some people are still left on the streets. In fact, there is no room for all these various populations of South Africa to integrate socially, culturally and even professionally. People tend to close themselves in their small social circle and identify themselves in the context of this small community that they have become part of. Even at Wits one can see a gear degree of disintegration among the students from various backgrounds. I will not go so far as to discuss the reasons for that. I think that everybody knows what they are.
However, if South Africans are looking with optimism at the World Cup in 2010 and they believe that the whole world will see that the "rainbow nation" in fact exists, they need to open to each other and show more willingness to understand the different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities of South Africa. If not, the whole idea of the so-called "rainbow nation" will be just one utopian idea. Besides, anybody who claims that he (she) is a "proudly South African" needs to speak more than just one language, such as English. As we already know, South Africa has eleven official spoken languages. And how many people speak at least half of those? This is what we should start thinking about.
Please, Themba or anybody else, let me know if you believe that I should elaborate more on that issue!

7 comments:

Susan Arthur said...

Hi Valentin
You raise some interesting points- many South Africans remain in their 'bubbles' and don't integrate culturally or socially with others.
But more importantly, I'm not sure how many people are proud to be South African- for example some of my family members who are very disillusioned by the crime levels and general lack of law and order- what the Sowetan advert Themba wrote on is about. Personally, I feel proud to be a South African because of the great things that happened here in 1994. But we definitely lack unity as a nation. Lots to think about! Maybe you could elaborate on problems as you see them from a foreign perspective?

Susan Mwangi said...

Valentin, I hear you!

It has been said that when someone speaks to you in your language they speak to your heart (to paraphrase Mandela). Yes, language can play a role in the social integration, but the major task still lies in changing mind sets.

I think you should explore this debate further.

Jody said...

My opinion regarding the lack of integration has to with mindsets changing but it is the environment that must change to allow people to step out of their "bubbles".

You must remember Johannesburg was a mining town and was developed overtime with the idea of racial-segregation, so the post-1994 government has been transforming the city albeit slowly into a more integrated and cosmopolitan city.

In Johannesburg, many of us live in a capsular world, from the car we go to work, shopping, home etc without the opportunity for spontaneous interaction. We have distinct roles in each place, not allowing the dynamism seem in cities like New York or London for example among others, where a great many areas are mixed-use developments and from that a lively street-life is created. Moreover we move between people of the same class as we go to certain malls, restaurants in these capsules.
This I think is because this city lacks great public spaces, an efficient public transport system and good urban design principles to create spaces where we are all seen as equals...

Bruce said...

Many South Africans have not realized that we stand to benefit more from uniting than pointing fingers at each other and associating with our kind. I understand it take centuries to shape culture hence I am optimistic that one day race will cease to be a factor in South Africa. In fact, it is the duty of our (ie younger) generation to take non-racialism to a higher level.

Laleh said...

You write very well.

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