Friday, April 25, 2008

The Rainbow Nation

Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the phrase "Rainbow Nation" with regard to South Africa's multi-culturally diverse population. Former president, Nelson Mandela, elaborated on it by saying (soon after he was elected) that South Africans are "a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world". I thought that the person standing on the pavement (photo right - snapped from a moving car) takes this rainbow-concept very seriously. Once you enlarge this photo, you will also see that this interestingly dressed individual is wearing a silver star on a piece of green felt, indicating membership of the Zionist movement, one of the largest religious groups in our country. Wherever you go in southern Africa, you will find people proudly displaying their affiliation with this church.

Most visitors seeking to catch a glimpse of whales (May-Nov each year), for which the coastal town of Hermanus (Western Cape) is famous, are also happy to see its equally renowned whale crier. If you enlarge this photo, you can see that on the board he's wearing, specific areas along the sea-board are stipulated - with a Morse Code "attached". The moment the whale crier is aware of where whales are breaching, he blows Morse-Code-style on the bugle, alerting all visitors in his vicinity of the exact site.

In South Africa, we call the performing group (right) "Kaapse Klopse" (Cape Minstrels). Every year, the city of Cape Town comes alive when New Year is celebrated by the Coloured community with a raucous carnival during which many minstrel bands compete to out-perform each other. I took this photo in Houtbay (on the Cape Peninsula), where such a group of Kaapse Klopse welcome back guests on a ferry-boat after visiting a small island just outside the bay, "inhabited" by Cape seals.

These two traditionally clad Ndebele ladies are found most days in the historic town of Pilgrim's Rest (Mpumalanga Province). Other than posing for tourists (photographers are expected to pay a small fee), they proudly represent a specific ethnic culture in our country. The Ndebele are famous for the colourful murals with which they decorate the outside walls of their homes, as well as for the traditional necklaces they wear. Peter Magubane, in his book "Vanishing Cultures of South Africa", explains that other than beaded wire hoops, "an Ndebele wife would also wear copper or brass rings (iindzila) around her neck. Traditionally, the husband provided his wife with her iindzila; the more rings she wore, the greater was her husband's wealth reputed to be. Iindzila are considered by a wife to be a token of her bond with and faithfulness to her husband."

This photo was taken at Stewart's Farm (KwaZulu-Natal) when it was still known as Kwabekhitunga. Here, visitors can relive a true, traditional experience. Portrayed in the photo is an isangoma (diviner) and her assistant, wearing traditional outfits. Again I'll quote Peter Magubane: "Diviners usually wear long white (and black) beaded headdresses in acknowledgment of their association with the shades of the underworld. Most diviners are female but men may also enter the profession if called by the ancestors to do so."

More traditional garb - in this case, following a German custom. This is a photo of a dear friend, Karsten, who doesn't know I'm using this photo by way of demonstrating the range of our rainbow nation. As a member of an oompah-band, which performs during get-togethers of the German-speaking community in the Greytown area (KwaZulu-Natal), Karsten is wearing a "uniform". The occasion, during which Karsten posed, was the annually held Hermannsburg School Fete, where old scholars, like me, love to meet.

Again, the man in this photo (my brother-in-law, Barry) isn't aware that I'm using it on this blog. It's also a "stolen" photo because his daughter, and not I took the photo. I got hold of it during a family reunion at Goudini Spa just outside Worcester (Western Cape), when we all exchanged photos. Barry hammed it up with whatever was available during a stop along the road, representing a bugle-player. Was he perhaps thinking of passing on military signals, or announcing the start of a hunt?

No dressing-up in this photo! Instead it's of youngsters wearing the prescribed uniform of the school they attend - it's a customary practice at schools in our country. I'm using this photo to present yet another insight into our multi-faceted rainbow nation.

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