I am a South African

A young poet gives insight on her roots

Dineo Mashile, a social work student at the University of the Free State, is an author and poet who firmly believes that identity goes way beyond race. “A recent visit to Zambia and learning about the African culture as a collective made me realise that my identity goes beyond race,” she said. “My race is only a component of who I am, it does not define me. Reducing myself to being a black female or a white male robs the world of the all the wealth that is within my holistic being,” she asserts.

She has written a poem about being South African. She says it was inspired by a speech by her Rector and Vice- Chancellor, Prof Jonathan Jansen, titled ‘My South Africa’.

I am a South African

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I come from a rural village in Limpopo; I grew up in a round grass-roofed hut on the mountain hills of QwaQwa.

My forefathers marched the streets of District Six and lived in the Cape Flats; I now live at the tenth floor of a beautiful hotel with an ocean view in Cape Town.

I walk on the dust roads of the Karoo and drive on the Cape mountains with total freedom of movement.

I find beauty in the dry lands of the Karoo, the waterfalls in Cape Town, the mountains of the Free State, the nature of the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, and the fruitfulness of Limpopo.

I eat fruits and vegetables grown in my own back yard; I feed my neighbours from both close and faraway places. My house is a place of refuge for people from all corners of the earth.

I am dressed in a xibhelana, the beautiful patterns of the Nguni tribe, the Jeremani of the Sotho people, and a tailor made formal suit with a beaded necklace; I walk tall and with pride whether my outfit is made of animal skin or leopard print fabric.

I am black, coloured, white, Indian, and Asian. I speak eleven languages with fluency and pride. I speak wise words, ones with ambiguity and cross-cultural definitions.

I am the child of an African woman and a European man. I am a walking definition of diversity; I am a salad bowl with many raw ingredients that just happen to go better together.

My name draws its meaning from the multiple generations of Freedom Fighters and brave men and women who sacrificed their lives to create this beautiful paradise I call home.

My wealth is not defined by the gold mines in Gauteng, the coal mines in Mpumalanga, the vegetation in Limpopo, the minerals and oil in the Cape, or the diamond mines in Kimberley.

Actually, my wealth is defined by the many cultures that define me: the traditions of the Zulu people, the pride of Xhosa initiates, the beautiful patterns of the Ndebele people, the respect and humility of the Venda and Tsonga people, the delicious traditional meals made from organic vegetables, the beautiful traditional attires of my people, and the beauty and warmth of sunshine during winter.

I am a world citizen, born in the Cradle of Mankind, and I live in the world’s power source.

I embrace all my differences; my diversity is my pride. All aspects of my identity are equally defined – I am as cultural as I am civilized, I am as spiritual as I am realistic and innovative, I am as ready to acknowledge my shortcomings as I am ready to stand up and take opportunities to grow and make a difference.

I am not perfect, but I wake up each morning to carry on striving towards the reaching of my goals with the hope that one day, everything will be alright.

Needless to say, I do not wish to be like anyone else or to be from anywhere else; for I am proudly South African.

“Sounds the call to come together, and united we shall stand. Let us live and strive for freedom, in South Africa our land!”

I am a South African!

Khotso Dineo Mashile

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