What happens in South Africa, stays in South Africa

by Aanya F Niaz

In the past year of witnessing an altogether eclectic nation, i.e. “the Rainbow nation”, I’ve come to realize the colors on the flag are not as seamlessly connected as an outsider would visualize. It is a country with 11 official languages, skin tones symbolizing cohabitation of the world’s most diverse range of populace; however, the face of Nelson Mandela, that which shows the world the togetherness that came through in 1994 with the end of Apartheid is a mere symbol, at best.

Of course, this was surprising. Places out West, such as New York City boast the most varied range of humans but not only in advertisements and music videos. In reality too. Once you step out and look at the country that is host the the largest metropolis, you begin to see the lack of this boastful diversity in any other place, but. Coming to South Africa, who would’ve thought that the reality of cohabitation is not similar to NYC, or other cities where your passport can conveniently side inside your wallet. In fact, a country of 50 million, only 13% are whites and the rest, are well, categorized as “non-white”. This mere separation is at the root of why the colors of the rainbow may sway together in a flag, but not on ground – not where it actually counts.

Nelson Mandela, the face of freedom to the world is, in fact, not the face of freedom to all in the country he is from. Controversial, questioned and doubted is his legacy: that it is impossible to account for success whilst working with those who discriminated against 87% of the population for so many years, is how some locals would put it. Others find his personal relationships with women, as interpreted via his biography, A Long Walk to Freedom, not in sync with the moral compass a world-class leader should possess. Mandela’s fame, in it’s singular capacity, also troubles citizens of South Africa, who believe his work would have been impossible without his advisors, close friends and colleagues.

This has been something to think about. The way the world seems to see this nation isn’t necessarily how it is; in fact, the multifaceted views on even the one man hero diverge in ways mostly irreconcilable. I suppose it’s natural to find these realities once inside a country otherwise unknown; however, the extent to which it differs on the inside versus the outside is most abrupt in its’ nature and at the same time, fascinating.

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