SA epitomises the human spirit

2011-04-09 15:37

I first came to South Africa on holiday in 2001 to visit my friend, Myrto Makrides, a Greek South African filmmaker who had studied at the University of Southern California.

I was here for a month and partied hard in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town. A year later my best friend’s job transferred him here and he said I should come over.

I moved here in 2003.
I was tired of the US and of the acting industry.

Work had slowed down, I had become jaded and I felt I had to check out for a minute because I had the potential to become a bitter actor.

I planned to come to Joburg for a year and was willing to do anything, volunteering or any other career.

Durban is my favourite place in South Africa, it reminds me of home.
The ocean is a healing, calming space for me and whenever things get too hectic and imbalanced I make my way to the ocean. My other favourite place is Port St Johns.

South Africa epitomises the human spirit and its ability to make something out of nothing and to create and to keep evolving.

I recently worked in a studio with hip-hop producers, The Layders, and I was blown away by their musicality and the acid jazz, hip-hop and beautiful stuff they were making.

Their counterparts in the West are not as progressive or forward thinking.

There are few obstacles between an idea and my ability to actualise it here.

I don’t like the dependency state in South Africa.

There are as many people who show ingenuity and creativity as there are people who are waiting for the government to do things for them.

Across the board and irrespective of race there is a lack of critical thinking.

My core business is creating and I do it across several genres: poetry, music, acting and as an artist-entrepreneur.

The environment here is beautiful and half the things I do here I couldn’t do in the US.

There people box you in and limit you.

I’ve had no limitations placed on me here.

The biggest difference between being a creative person here compared to the US is that there are so few structures regulating the creative industries.

There are too many conflicts of interest and too many resources in too few hands.

South Africa has taught me to walk slower.

We live fast in the US and the focus is always on the future, on accumulating things and on gaining notoriety. I’ve learnt here that I don’t have to run and to have time for introspection and for family and friends.

I feel better spiritually and emotionally because I’m not running all the time.

Home exists in several places for me: Florida, where my mom lives; Connecticut, where my stepmom lives;

and New York, where I feel most at home. I’d like South Africans to know that the US is different, not necessarily better.

If I could take a South African to the US I’d take them to Miami, where I grew up.

It has a blend of cultures and it’s very Caribbean and I’d want people to taste the food and the culture.

After that I’d take them to New Orleans.

The food I miss the most is ackee and salt fish.

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and we eat it for breakfast served with dumplings.

I know it sounds cheesy but the US has the capacity to inspire hope and the potential to fulfil so many dreams.

Despite all the turmoil in the country at the moment it’s the one thing that makes people fight to get it back on track.

My greatest hope for South Africa lies in seeing people just getting on with it.

Given the country’s history and what the world says about it sometimes, it continues to move forward.

And I do a lot of work with young people and they make me hopeful.

My favourite South African is the poet laureate, Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile.

He just doesn’t stop. His ideals and ability and willingness to create have always been consistent. He’s always been open, receptive and nurturing to me.

The food I just don’t get is umphokoqo . Spoilt milk and pap? I don’t think so. Its right up there with mogudu (tripe).

Xenophobia can be very subtle and hard to pin down.

I haven’t experienced it in any overt way but it’s nebulous, especially when it happens in institutions.

The thing that infuriates me about South Africa is that people think pedestrians don’t matter and that it’s okay to run me over because it’s taking me a few seconds to cross the street.

I don’t think I’ll move back to the US full-time.

I want to go back to study and I miss my mom and family and I want to be more present in their lives.

But I love my life in South Africa and I’m not interested in giving that up.

I’d advise anyone thinking of moving here to have a plan.

And not to move to South Africa and look for American aesthetics and systems.

I accept South Africa on its own terms and I have had to adapt to it, it hasn’t had to adapt to me.

I’d advise people to learn a language and that it’s rude to not make an effort to understand the place you live in.

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