Being part of the Breaking the Rainbow session at the Abantu Book Festival in Mofolo, Soweto was catalyst to my conscience. I was part of the audience listening to the author of Breaking a Rainbow, Building a Nation Kgotsi Chikane, author of Dark Continent my Black Arse Sihle Khumalo, author of Sorry, Not Sorry Haji Mohamed Dawjee and academic and writer Athi-Nangomso Nkopo. The session was moderated by award winning broadcast producer, writer and media specialist Nolwazi Tusini.
The panel talked about the relevance and consequences of the rainbow nation narrative in democratic South Africa, and that even though it was used as a tool to unite, it’s transparency is more evident than ever after the #FeesMustFall movement which saw students take to the streets across campuses in 2015. Chakina talked about what happened before the protests and how today’s student politics differs from that seen in 1976, especially because they’re been led by so-called “coconuts”. His main question was whether privileged black people can be trusted with the revolution. He went to the best schools, he has a car and access to resources, even though he was seen as a leader during the movement, his status and resources meant he simply should not be involved.
I did not identify much with Chikane, but I did identify with Dawjee’s narrative that as blacks we are consistently being stripped of our natural wealth, our dignity and our spirit. Hearing her speak was my ‘aha’ moment as I had always wondered where that deep feeling of unworthiness as a young person who grew up in post-apartheid South Africa came from.
I had never been openly discriminated against on the basis of my skin colour and as a young boy growing up in the villages I thought racism didn’t even exist. I was completely oblivious. The damage done by the separatist policies of the erstwhile apartheid government can never be underestimated.
This session smacked me out of my deep slumber of believing in a free, rainbow nation. I realised that my black pigment is always going to be used to define me, no matter what! I am always going to be “that black guy”. There are many going through these struggles and getting an opportunity to interact with authors, poets and people who write about the post-apartheid experience is a privilege.
Sorry, not Sorry is Dawjee’s first book and in it she explores the often maddening experience of moving through post-Apartheid South Africa as a woman of colour. She pulls no punches when examining the social landscape and talks through her love for tennis champion Serena Williams, getting into a bar fight with a right-wing conservative and her long struggle with depression.
Speaking after the event Dawjee said it’s crucial that as South Africans we take ownership of our stories, we need to talk about ourselves as black South African and focus less on the minority group.
She is brutally honest, kind and does not hold back when the truth needs to be told.
ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and The Journalist will continue to keep you posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If you were not able to join the festival this year, there is always next year. In the meantime, stay updated by following us on social media. All images courtesy of Mmuso Mafisa and Abantu Book Festival.