Daring to dream

2010-05-14 00:00

WHEN the now defunct Tribute magazine was formed, its payoff line was “Tribute to black excellence”. The underlying philosophy behind the formation of Tribute was that even though the struggle for the political liberation of black people was at its peak, there was a need to begin displaying positive and affirming images of black people.

The line of thinking from the founders of Tribute magazine and like-minded people, was that even though the focus of the majority of the people still needed to be firmly on the ultimate prize, which was political liberation, there was a need to display positive images of those black people who were making it big in different fields, be it in business, showbiz, academia or even politics. This, they thought was going to change the way black people saw themselves, since apartheid’s intention was to make black people in general and Africans in particular believe that they were second-class citizens.

This school of thought met with opposition from those who felt that such a display of black middle-class icons would distract and deceive people into thinking that they had arrived. Despite debates and spirited arguments around this issue, Tribute thrived and became very popular, especially among the black middle class.

It was in Tribute that we were introduced to the black captains of industry. Seeing images of black people in beautiful houses, fancy cars and images of snazzily dressed black people in up- market­ offices became the order of the day. These images propelled many people forward and sent a statement that said “it is possible”.

Much as I sympathised with the view that said a magazine like Tribute was premature, I strongly believed that instead of shifting focus­ from the liberation struggle, showing images of successful black people was going to intensify our appetite for political lib­eration and make many people hungry for success and excellence, despite all odds. So, some of us became ardent readers and eventually writers for Tribute magazine.

This is not to single out Tribute as the only magazine that did a good job, as there are many titles that followed suit afterwards. I am thinking of Ebony South Africa (which was a local version of the United States magazine Ebony­), Enterprise magazine and many other publications that displayed positive images and told success stories of black people.

What is of significance is the role that Tribute played in motivating and making people see that financial, academic and other forms of success are not out of reach for black people. It was in Tribute magazine that we became acquainted with the success stories of people such as Richard Maponya, Hixonia Nyansulu, Gloria­ Serobe, JB Magwaza, Don Mkhanazi, Herman Mashaba and many other black entrepreneurs. These images really inspired and rekindled hope for many.

These images enabled us to imagine more clearly — to see a dream of a free South Africa, not just possible, but also very probable. From those images we did not only imagine a free and prosperous South Africa, which eventually happened, but we dared to dream and imagine that our country could host the Football World Cup in less than two decades of political liberation. We needed to have very fertile imaginations to think such a dream was possible, but we dreamt anyway, in the same way that we did in Kliptown in 1955. We imagined and it became real.

The irony now, barely 25 days before our country and our continent host the biggest spectacle ever, is that the enormity of hosting the World Cup is beyond our imagination. Our minds cannot fathom the breadth and depth of hosting an event of this magnitude. We are just in awe, pinching ourselves. Our jaws are literally on the floor. Despite the sceptics and the doomsayers, we are feeling it. It is here.

This universe has a very interesting sense of humour. Through our positive images and our fertile imaginations, as South Africans we have always stayed true to our mantra of being a country with endless possibilities.

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