MY EARLY days of
belonging were shaped by many factors playing off around me, some of them too
big to comprehend, others offered in just the right shape and size to
My heritage, stained with now notorious bad choices of a few
generations, was desperate to shoot its roots deeper in the hope of unearthing
new life sprouting from the gentle waters and sweet juices of happy origins.
The year was 1994 and the world was waiting for the birth of
a new nation that had been shaped by a very long struggle, patiently negotiated
in convention centres, spilling over in street riots and eventually cemented by
snaking queues across mountains, dusty villages and sprawling cities throughout
You get the picture, you've seen it all before.
In my story, though, I was 10 months shy from ripe voting
It became clear that I was going to have to negotiate my way
into history. The high resolution image of a new nation was being pixelated
around me, without my valid vote in a box that could symbolise my own
The plan unfolded: a loan from my mum and a quick dispatch
to a flag shop in the nearby city (my town was too small to sell any type of
flag, old or new for that matter); a quick consultation with a teacher I could
entrust with my near-revolutionary steps; a hastily-stitched contract with a
local seamstress to retro fit the cheap flag - the only one we could find and
afford - with the fittings of the old OranjeBlanjeBlou; a CD recording of Nkosi
Sikelel' iAfrika on my gramophone-like hi-fi (miraculously found at a
neighbouring town's CNA).
And a ceremony to boot, with choirs, parents, teachers,
pupils and other interested parties taking seats on the dusty patch in front of
the school to celebrate the first Heritage Day of the new South Africa.
A farewell gift to the small town that helped raise me was a
new flag and the peripatetic kicking and screaming that followed in the weeks
thereafter as governing body members, concerned parents and other distinguished
members of society questioned the centre-left, slightly red, tendencies I displayed.
While a thorough investigation into my bloodline revealed no
Russian or other foreign DNA, I was let off the hook - with some suspicion -
and left mostly to my own devices. Voëlvry, comes to mind.
Still, camaraderie was discovered in the unfolding plan, the
rush of the moment that dug a foundation for the journey I was about to set off
on, mixed by the fears of approaching matric exams and stubborn acne that
halted any potential for easy money in the world of modelling.
Yet as we live with present day headlines such as
"forces deployed to hot spots" while our young nation battles another
birth of discovering its own potential, some of the koeksister-chokers my well
ring me up to ask if it was all worth it.
That is how some survive. They wait in the wings for a
crisis to justify their own fears.
If I could, I would arrange another flag-raising ceremony
today still. I find the stillness in the moment very useful for planning our
next brave step as we approach this unexplored minefield.
Like the rest of our hopes, it deserves a justified spot in
*Adriaan tweets as @aiBester as he wonders what we expect
from one another and indeed how we view fellow citizens in this month of
celebrating our heritage.
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