Georgina Guedes

Light in the darkness

2013-11-08 09:49

Georgina Guedes

It's been a tough couple of weeks. Red October and the EFF rallies have exposed to us all the ugliness that still makes up a large part of South African culture.

While we may distance ourselves from the philosophies and politics of those we disagree with, we’re all South Africans and there is a common thread that binds all of us.

So, we celebrate a peaceful transition to democracy, we weep when the all-inclusive national anthem is sung, but we have to acknowledge that racism (both ways) and farm murders and gender violence and corruption and bigotry are all a part of the South African cultural identity.

This is not to say that I've had my love of South Africa shattered - far from it - simply that I've listened to the voices of the factions of people who are not like me and who do not think like me, and I've heard so much pain and anger, and I wish there were a way to dispel that.

I love living here

While I think that South Africa is doing well, we often say "We've got a long way to go," and I do sometimes feel that we’re not doing much about getting there.

But this column isn't about that. I love South Africa. I love its people. I love that when I had my hit-and-run accident a few weeks ago, many people of different races came out of their houses and were all equally helpful and equally outraged at the rapidly retreating figure of the guy who had been driving the other car (yes, he actually abandoned his car and ran).

Even so, I've been feeling a little bleak these past few weeks. And then, last weekend, I went to see Suzanne Vega performing at Montecasino. A fan of hers over the years, I hadn't given her much thought recently, but I was still delighted at the opportunity to see her perform.

She was incredible. Every song she sang was pitch perfect and her intonations were just like the originals. She may have aged (gracefully) but her voice certainly hasn't. I got goosebumps, and I wept great big wet tears and I've been playing her songs on rotation ever since. But that’s not what this column is about either.

A glimmer of light

This column is about Nakhane Touré, her opening act - although to call him that is to do an injustice to the way in which he owned the stage and held the audience in the palm of his hand, as if he were the headline act.

I hadn’t heard about him before, although my husband has. This young guy from the Eastern Cape was charming, witty and very funny, and he has one hell of a vocal and songwriting talent. And I looked around the theatre at a bunch of mostly-middle-aged white South Africans, toe-tapping along to this young black man's tunes, and I felt as if I was participating in a beautiful moment in South Africa - one of many.

I don't spend much time in interesting bars and I don't get to see too many local bands, so I've probably missed out on what should have been a much earlier encounter with Touré. As he said, "You guys don't listen to 5FM." But there he was, young and gifted and black, doing his thing for us, and we loved it.

So I left the concert with a little spring in my step - from Vega, and from my own experience, but also from Touré. I'm still a little too befuddled to try and make some kind of sense of the bigger picture, so I'm not going to wrap it up into some lovely analogy for South Africa as a whole, but I do know that there are beautiful things happening here - and that we're getting to be a part of them.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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