When traveling to a new place, communication is the most important skill that a person should develop. Communication should not be defined by whether you speak the local language or not, however, it should be the ability to understand the stories from the people’s point of view. I understand that people share different beliefs, opinions, or ideas, but learning to accept those differences through understanding stories from each other’s point of view is the key to effective communication. Often, the challenge we experienced in communication is “our very natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, to approve or disapproved, the statement of the other person, or the other group” (Rogers, pg. 3). Based on the conversations we had during our time in South Africa, I believe that I experienced the country’s history and culture with more of listening with and less evaluation about. As my research question is based on the role that music played during the struggle of the apartheid, the act of listening that I observed during our time in South Africa was understanding the message carried and shared to the people through those songs. I tried to not analyze the songs from my personal understanding, instead, from the point of view of the people who wrote those songs because this is the only way that I can understand South Africans’ living conditions before and after the apartheid. For instance, after our visit in the Slave Lodge museum, and the different conversations we had with our guest speakers, I did not focus on evaluating each speaker’s story in what concerned the apartheid. I listened from each speaker perspective because in learning about a place and its culture, it is important to consider different sides of the story since communication can be challenging. As I mentioned above, one thing that can block communication is when we tried to evaluate the story. However, listening from the speaker’s point of view is the key to an effective communication, and I believe this helped me in my discovering about South Africa, its history, its people, and its culture
Sometimes, history is washed away by the waves of lies that people embrace without questioning things or simply telling the other side of the story which is usually hidden. But how do we expect young generations to know about major events that marked the world’s history in a certain era? The history of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, freedom movements and other events should be discussed more openly because today’s society is constructed through or from those events that we do not often think about or simply ignore that they existed. From our visit of Solms-Delta heritage museum and the conversation with our guest speakers (students a UTC), I learned that the history of a country is worth to be learned, told, and discussed in a society. This is not to bring hate among people, instead, it is to educate people about their past and bring that level of consciousness on which people know when and how to stand for their rights.
All humans should not be ignorant about their right to stand for themselves or fight for their right when it is being denied to them. After hearing all three personal perspectives on the movement Fees Must Fall from our guest speakers, I can conclude that the students are personally standing for their most important right, which is having the access to education. Why seeking education in their own country should become a challenge for them? And why this situation seems to be affecting only certain group population referring to their race or social classes? These are some of the questions that people do not often ask themselves before emerging in the mixed of assumptions or prejudices. I believe that if the right conversations are being held at the right time, just like any other society, the South African society will experience positive growth in what concerns social matters. If the history continues to be pushed back, hidden from the younger generations or ignored the social groups that seem to be at the bottom of the society will never know or learn to stand for themselves. And this may continue to encourage injustice and social inequality.
Being a human basic need, food also plays a significant role in a culture. When learning about a place, its people and cultural practices, it is also important to learn about its food because it has a significant influence. As we walked in some streets of Bo Kaap and learned about its history and its population group, one thing that our tour guide Mrs. B impatiently wanted to talk about was food. Due to the time limit, we ended up not talking about food, but she mentioned that food plays an important role in the Cape Malay’s culture and in the South African population in general because food influence a culture by representing a population history and its practices. However, in many culture cooking is mostly connected with gender practices; and that practice “consists of a set of elements: social practices, textual practices, and embodied practices are all involved in constructing gender, enforcing its existence as an exclusive community of women” (Fleitz, 7).
As learned during the cooking class, food is one of the reasons people gather together, and it could be for dedicated events such as a wedding, funeral, birth, graduation, etc. Although cooking is usually associated with gender, Mama told us that she learned cooking from a father and her cooking style reflects her family’s stories and practices. Personal family stories can be embodied through food when it passes down from one generation to another. For example, sweet potatoes mixed with beans is a significant dish for my family because it reminds us where we come from. We are originally from the Eastern Congo, where the weather facilitates the cultivation of these two types of food. This dish also reminds me of my childhood, the happiness, joy, and love that we used to share together with my sister when eating. In every culture around the globe, food contributes significantly in cultural practices because it tells a story about the place and its people; however, we should not always talk about food as gender-based, instead, cooking should be associated with cultural practices and personal family histories.
Talking about authenticity, the first thing that has felt authentic to me during this trip in South Africa it is the cultural representation and embodiment in almost everything. As stated in the article by Pico Iyer, “our notion of places — which is to say the romances and images we project onto them — are always less current and subtle than the places themselves”. Before traveling to a place, we usually have a representation of that place which has nothing to do with its reality. For instance, although this is not my first trip to South Africa, the more I am learning about its history and culture, I always realize how wrong or ignorant I was in what concerns the South African customs, the people, and its political/social system. For example, I was surprised to learn about the different meaning of some traditional objects that are to be found in the parliament, because I used to think those objects were just there for decoration. However, going to the parliament made me realize that the authenticity of a place can only be lived and experienced when you go to a place itself.
There is a difference between my definition of the concept of authenticity and another person’s definition. My concept of authenticity comes from a cultural representation of a place because I think that culture is what makes a place and its people different from other places. Africa is a very diverse continent, therefore traveling to South Africa also allowed me to realize that although there are some similarities between the Congolese culture and South African culture, there are also things that make those two cultures different. The game drive, our trip to Soweto and Alexandra are the experiences that felt more authentic during our time in South Africa because I felt in connected to the people, culture, and nature. Visiting museums is also important because there is information that can only be learned in and through museums, however, I prefer to learn from the people because it makes me feel connected to the place in a more authentic way. Sometimes our concept of authenticity changes with experiences, beliefs, or opinions. In what concerns my experience in South Africa, my concept of authenticity has not changed because I still think that culture is what makes one place different from the others. Therefore, South Africa is different from other African Country based on its culture, and vice versa.
It feels more relaxed to start the day later than the previous days. In today’s schedule, we visited the Parliament, District Six, and Slave Lodge museums. We were able to learn about the South African’s parliament system and compare it with the United States’ parliament system. The parliament consists of two houses, namely the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The existing difference between the two houses is that the NA is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the constitution, and the NCOP represent the provinces and the provincial interest. Comparing to the U.S parliament, the people do not elect the representatives, they are elected by political parties and they can only be removed by the political parties. However, the government tends to be influenced by the most powerful political parties in numbers, because the biggest political party in number usually elects the president
After the parliament, we went to visit District Six museum and learn about its history and the events that happened in that neighborhood during the apartheid regime. According to the information acquired during the self-tour, District six used to be an inner-city residential in Cape Town in which some of its residents were forced to relocate due to the policies of the apartheid regime. It was declared a White group area that allowed the forced removals of people of color, Indians, and Africans because during the apartheid regime they had to live in places named homelands; this was the beginning of segregation and social inequalities in many cities in South Africa. Although there were interesting topics to be discussed District six, I found the museum very resourceful for both local and foreign visitors. The information is chronologically explained, and it is equally accessible to all the visitors
Our last stop before the photoshoot session was the visit of the Slave Lodge. I really enjoyed this museum because there are different sections elaborating on social matters focusing on situations such as human right, women right, health right, freedom, and others. The three things that stood out to me during this tour are the mention of the role that music played during the struggle, the brief story about the origin of slaves in Cape Town, and the exhibition part on HIV/AIDS. I learned that during the apartheid, freedom songs were a weapon against the colonial conquest and the apartheid regime. Those songs tell the people organization, ideologies, beliefs, events, and emotions that were part of the struggle. In what concerns the mention of human rights and HIV/AIDS, it is important to have a section discussing these contemporary crises for constantly remembering people to treat one another with consideration and respect and to protect themselves against the spread of endemic diseases.
“Each one, teach one”. Education is a weapon that we should never underestimate its ability to change the course of things in a society. From our visit to Robben Island and the talk with Mr. Warden, the one thing that stood out to me the most about the fight against the struggle of the apartheid is the role of education during. From the two ex-prisoners’ life experience in prison, I realized that they were putting emphasis on the use of education. By teaching one another, illiteracy rate diminished among prisoners, and the main objective was that many prisoners were brought to Robben Island for political reasons, so they empowered each other because they wanted the change to occur. They were not impatient to see how long they had to wait for change to occur; however, they learn from one another because this was their only productive options.
Comparing the struggle against the apartheid and the social crises occurring on the global level, I believe that some ideologies from the social movement in South African should be used as an example. For example, Mr. Warden mentioned that education helped the flourished of many movements for liberation and helped them to work on their lives. Although prisoners at Robben Island did not have access to the outside world and the church, they used education to show their persecutors that an educated man is to be feared because the brain is a powerful weapon to bring changes in a society. In today’s South African society, I believe that there still that spirit of freedom, however younger generations should equally have access to education because they constitute the future of the country. Not only in South Africa, but global change also requires the equal access to education because it is only through learning that change occurs.
As I am still learning about social movements and some revolutionary movements in South Africa, it appears to me that South Africans have chosen as focus the social dimension of power to change and fight any social struggle because they have realized that change can only come through productive actions such as activism and advocacy. For change to happen, effective interpersonal communication should occur between the state, political leaders, and the population. As it is stated in Carl Rogers’ work, “… the major barrier to mutual interpersonal communication is our very natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, to approve or disapprove, the statement of the other person, or the other group” (pg. 3). This leads me to argue that the multiple social movements that occurred in the 1960s in South Africa are based on the lack of productive interpersonal communication between the established government and revolutionists such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, and other.
During our visit at Liliesleaf farm, we learned about the main points of the Rivonia trial and the most important thing that stood out to me from this tour is the representation of liberation of movement as the rejection of the legitimacy of the racial minority state. I will argue that the lack of mutual interpersonal communication between the state and the population produced this resistance against the struggle of apartheid. For instance, the shift that occurred in South Africa in social manifestations from nonviolence to the use of violence in marches and other forms of social movement, it is because the rules and regulations where established during the apartheid were in an advantage of the minority and not the other groups. A society can properly and peacefully function only through mutual interpersonal communication. Therefore, people like Nelson Mandela, Dennis Goldberg, and other members of the Rivonia trial would not have felt obligated to have secret meetings, if there were individual freedom and mutual interpersonal communication with the government of the time.