“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
– Khahil Gibran
“Not another quote” I hear people mumble as they read this. However isn’t it amazing how true some words ring and this quote is apt for a lot of people around the world and it is very apt for South Africans who on this day celebrate Freedom Day.
Chances are that if you are reading this, then you are an expat living in a foreign country. The likelihood is that you have been exposed to a variety of people from different corners of the world. Each of these people brings with them a culture that is different from yours. Each one carries with them a history that is perhaps unknown to you.
Fun facts for your next date!
For example, what public holidays do you know from other countries besides the one you are from or are currently residing in? Perhaps you know about Independence Day in the USA. I mean, there have been entire movies dedicated to the day. You may know about Chinese New year or Labour Day. But do you know any South African public holidays? Do you know much about South Africa?
Maybe diamonds and gold spring to mind, perhaps the name “Nelson Mandela” rings a bell. You may even believe that South Africans have pet lions and drive elephants to work. A select few may even believe that South Africa is an entire continent on its own.
For those of you who aren’t entirely sure about this place, today I just want to give you a quick squiz at what today means for this country. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful place with a very checkered history.Freedom Day is a celebration of the first day when everyone in South African above the age of 18 could vote. Your gender did not matter. Your social status did not matter. Most importantly, your race did not matter! All that mattered was that you cared enough about your future to vote. You cared enough to make your mark and to choose your future.
“And so?” I hear a few people say (probably the same people who didn’t like the opening quote). “It’s just the right to vote.” No, no, no my friends this was the culminating point of a very long struggle in South Africa. A sad struggle. A dirty struggle. A costly struggle.
The people of South Africa have been fighting for their freedom since 1652 when they were colonized. The years that followed this colonization were just ….ugly. The colonizers took hold of this land and its people and subjected them to ghastly laws and created a divided nation characterized by oppression. From 1948 – 1991 South Africa went through a period called “Apartheid”.
This period saw laws being passed that separated “whites” from “non-whites”. It dictated where you could live, study, walk, eat and even sit. You want to swim in the ocean? Well, according to these laws, if you were “non-white” you couldn’t. Nope, not in this ocean, it clearly “belonged” to those classified as white (please note the heaps of sarcasm thrown into this statement. It is not the true view of the author).
Freedom Day commemorates the end of this struggle. What this struggle proved to the people of South Africa is that this nation has an overabundance of strength and the ability to forgive. On this day in 1995, a great man and the first free leader of this country, Nelson Mandela, gave a moving speech about what this day means to his people and his words will surely echo throughout time.
I believe that for South Africans living outside of their country, this will tug on your heart strings and remind you of the true wonderment of this land. For those who are not from South Africa, I believe that these words ring true for everyone. Everyone has their own struggle but it is good to remember that there is always hope and that you are never alone…
“As dawn ushered in this day, the 27th of April 1995, few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation, the great possibilities that we now have, and the bright future that beckons us. Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our heart beats as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future…
On this day, you, the people, took your destiny into your own hands. You decided that nothing would prevent you from exercising your hard-won right to elect a government of your choice. Your patience, your discipline, your single-minded purposefulness have become a legend throughout the world…”
Thanks to one our readers, Megan, for sharing her wonderful story today! She is a writer for hire from South Africa, and feel free to add her Wechat for more stories about China from a South African perspective~
Have a cross-cultural story you’d like to share? How about a write-up of a holiday in your country? Send it our way~