There are a multitude of things that the African continent has yet to experience. The most liberal form of freedom, economic independence and the true end to neo-colonialism would probably be at the top of the list…and rightly so. But, in my quest to express my existence on this continent formerly known as the “Dark One/Stepchild of the World” I’ve been hovering, in perpetual duality.
Does one focus on the uphill climb? The despair? The strife? Because there is an immense amount of it, we wade through it everyday (throughout the Francophone-Anglophone-Arabphone terrain that is Africa). Does one attempt to resurrect hope for hope’s sake by whitewashing the black spots riddled all over an acne-scarred African soul? These are the questions I’ve faced, whether I’m in a bus, in the worst taxi-ranks in the city, in a well-furnished working-class home being offered tea in chipped cups – the duality that is Africa, that is me. It is omnipresent.
Two events have taken place this month. First, and quite possibly one that marks a change in the identity of women on the African continent is the move to appoint Minister of Home Affairs in South Africa; Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as the Chairwoman of the African Union. The African continent has finally handed over power from the Francophone region to the Anglophone region, but most importantly, the collective group of men who account for 98% of the leaders in the AU chose to be led into a new future — with a capable woman at the helm. The only hope now is that her appointment is not garnishing on an already male-dominated platter of political turmoil.
The second event took place over the course of the 7th and 8th of August 2012, and for a brief moment, brought the South African public, and its “survival mode, dog-eat-dog, hard-knock-life” mentality to a halt. You see, it literally covered us in the kind of equality that is so fleeting that it’s precious. It snowed. Yes. Fluffy, freezing, falling snow. You have to understand, snow is rare on the African continent and, yes, global warming has done a number on Earth, but, to snow all over the Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces was unfathomable – at least, until it was brought unbelievable fruition.
Workers, students, men, women, statesmen and street children, managers and employees had, in that moment, one thing in common: awe, excitement and a collective evocation of splendour. My own co-workers and our respective bosses dropped what they had been so adamant on finishing (deadlines died silent deaths in that moment) bounded down the stairs, headed to the elevators and out into the campus yard to… play in the snow.
I took to the streets to find grown men playing in the snow, women running through it like 5 year old girls, giggling, sticking their tongues out – and not dressed for this kind of weather either (granted, winter in South Africa is no laughing matter…take the 2010 FIFA World Cup…I’m sure every player and fan can attest to this). It was a welcome assault on the senses, the combination of the cold, wet, snow and the warmth somehow managing to escape into the air and infect everyone in a sweeping movement. The joy at the sighting of snow.
Back in the office, that silence, that haunting tension of the “to-do list” dissipated. With barriers down, social levels of distinction tumbled along with the snow for a moment and I believe I was able to glimpse into the ideal world…not a utopia (which is impossible to achieve without degenerating into anarchy anyway) but something…different. I admit, I have yet to define it, but I believe something holistic is possible, hidden in a common interest, the moment when the primal emotion takes over in a collective form.
Mother Nature has had the tendency to bring us crashing to our knees in staggering despair, in equal magnitudes of complete shock or marvel. It is in these moments that we can glimpse into our collective unconscious and see our common selves. Mother Nature seems to have a big funny bone, what with all this snow on a continent that has deserts and camels and is known for its “unbearable” heat.
A toast; to Mother Nature, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma…and beautiful, unexpected snow.