Rising to my heritage

Sep 19 2012 07:00
*Adriaan Bester

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 assimilate.

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 my country.

You get the picture, you've seen it all before.

In my story, though, I was 10 months shy from ripe voting age.

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 expectations.

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 our heritage.

 - Fin24

*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.

*Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

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