Featured,  Personal,  Proudly South African

On being South African

With all the Bok-related patriotism in the air, it’s hard not to think about being South African. I’ve caught myself softly singing our national anthem a good few times since Saturday and, without fail, feel my eyes well up when reaching those last two lines.

Earlier this year, I wanted out. I wanted to pack my bags and move somewhere safe. I wanted to escape the violence and the tension and the feeling of always looking over my shoulder.

But what good would that do? In the name of safety, I’d lose so much.

I’d lose living in a country where:

– We have 11 official languages and countless local dialects, making almost every conversation a colourful combination ‘borrowed’ words

Ndlovu Youth Choir from rural Limpopo made it to the finals of America’s Got Talent and, while they didn’t win the competition, they forever have the hearts of their fellow South Africans

We have true religious freedom. On Friday afternoons, in Cape Town, you’ll see Muslim worshippers of all ages hurrying to Mosque for Salaat-ul-Jumu’ah; and in the evenings Sea Point’s streets gain an air of festivity as Jewish families walk to synagogue and/or Shabbat

– On Sundays, peaceful Zionist worshippers gather in fields under the open sky, their bright white garments a striking contrast to the green and blue; church doors are flung wide open morning and evening to welcome Christian friends and families in their Sunday best – or maybe smart casuals, depending on your denomination and personal sense of style

– A couple’s #KFCProposal went viral on Twitter and unleashed an outpouring of love and gifts from local businesses, celebrities, corporates and ordinary citizens.

A young gay farmer had the guts to enter ‘Boer Soek ‘n Vrou’ – a silly and not entirely unproblematic, yet endearing dating show aimed at pairing 10 South African farmers up with their perfect partner – and proceeded to receive the most letters of all the contestants!

– There are 20 national parks and countless other nature reserves, botanical gardens and sanctuaries committed to protecting our natural heritage

– Everyone has THE secret to making a really good braaibroodjie

– We have the most progressive constitution in the world – one that is built on the freedom and rights of its citizens and also calls upon us to play our part in building a ‘free and fair South Africa’. Thuma Mina, as our president would say.

We are far from perfect. Of course, I know all the positives mentioned above can be shredded to an inch of their existence and turned into negatives by the pessimists among us (even my fellow realists). And we have so many problems. SO many. But where a large majority of us really DO live and strive for freedom, because South Africa IS OUR LAND.

A note on the featured image: It’s profoundly difficult to find an image that captures South African-ness. I searched through my personal archives for a picture of a Springbok or the flag or a Protea or even a damn Blue Crane. But to no avail. Something about this image of a warthog and a Gemsbok snapped in Mokala National Park a couple of years ago seemed fitting, though. Maybe it’s the resilience and sheer toughness these two creatures embody. And maybe also the strange diversity the photo seems to capture. And then, of course, the humour. If there’s one thing about us South Africans, we sure know how to have a good laugh!


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