WHEN Zolani Mahola turned to Karen Zoid on stage in the
Fugard Theatre last week to introduce her band’s new summer hit, the largely
urban Cape Town crowd faced a moment of panic while remaining resolutely
optimistic at her announcement that it is to be sung entirely in Afrikaans and
As catchy tunes go, we were singing along while rhythmically
clapping our hands in tune by the third time the chorus came by. Legs tapping,
lips mock-singing we made up the words as we rolled along.
We are South Africans. A lack of understanding through
language will not spoil a good moment.
Help is at hand for those who are fearful about our ability to adapt quickly to a changing and demanding future society.
It comes in the form of Generation Y, and loosely refers to the group of twenty- to twenty-nine-year-olds that are sipping the juices from the born-free tree.
Attending a YFI discussion on Saturday in Stellenbosch by a
panel of about 20 such Y-bies, I came within reach of the shoulders that will
carry our hopes and aspirations forward.
They straddle the path between finding their feet in an adult world, and contemplating questions like: how do we stitch our multiple interpretations of this spot that we call home to the ways we were raised?
What is the role of our own belief systems? What makes us unique and relevant?
Powered by every form of technology and an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Generation Y is tiptoeing over the issues that have for so many years cemented us into strict views of ourselves, and how we believe we associate with each other.
They, at least the ones representing this generation on the select panel, are confident, hungry and seemingly unaware of the many divided tongues we inherited from a path that scattered so many of us into a continuous spiral, in search of an identity that can unite and not divide.
They brim with a glow that eats data faster than your
trusted typewriter could consume in the first 30 years of your life. The tools
they have and the eyes they use to scan the world are trained for the big
revolution they can bring about, and to get us out of this rut we seem to be
stuck in. If only they’d be given the chance.
I’m half a dozen years over the cut-off age of this
“Generation Y-not” miracle workers. But if age were not the only entry criterion,
and if recent memory of late my twenties is allowed, I can recognise the one
missing ingredient, only because I lacked it too: patience.
When asked a few years ago how I would see my life
"five years from now”, I doodled along in verbal potjiekos until the
interviewee would interpret it as “so you want my job by then"?
A nervous chuckle and a confident “yes” usually sealed the
awkward moment, moving us along to another lame question.
But my hair too is showing some silver. And now I understand
the designs of the question as an attempt to connect to my generational view on
the role I have to play in shouldering a brighter spot for all of us in the
Coming from a long line of believers in the healing powers of the song, I will download the new catchy Afrikaans/isiXhosa anthem soon. I will sing it until I feel embraced and part of a sweeping generation trapped between the boomers and the Y-nabies.
The odds are that I will mess up the words, yet I will sing aloud in public to show that I am trying to stretch the panic chord between us that so quickly snaps a bit further than the few inches we allow it.
And I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow South Africans to see the value of the lessons I’ve learnt from my own generational discoveries, as I’ve profited from those I chose to follow before me.
Sometimes Adriaan sings for his sanity on Twitter as