It was quintessential rural South Africa. The muddy roads, established Marula trees and concrete huts which had been sneezed across the Bushbuckridge lowveld. Amidst the random scatterings of the village, little boys played soccer in torn and faded Manchester United shirts whilst life carried on around them. It was a Saturday morning, yet the children were at school. The end of the year was graduation time and for the Grade 1 Class of Xalakani School (A primary school supported by the Londolozi Learning Centre and Good Work Foundation) it was an incredibly special day.
Despite the young age of the learners, an entire village had come out to celebrate the future of their community and our country. The grade 1 graduation celebration was inspirational. There was no poverty, only optimism. No scenes of starving children rather a communal feast and where the soulless processions of other academic ceremonies detract from the enjoyment, this was about color, revelry and rejoicing.
It is in South Africa, more than anywhere else in the world, that I have enjoyed and experienced the real sense of community. Here community is more than centrally located individuals, like minded people or forced relationships. Here community is based around the continual and shared enjoyment of being a part of each others lives…and expressing that enjoyment.
The ubuntu in this community is real simply owing to the myriad of genuine interactions occurring all at once. The formality of the event is completely overshadowed by the rapture of celebrating this day. The western world may have drilled the importance of seeking attention and recognition into people’s brains, yet here amongst rural South Africans, attention isn’t needed because its not actually important. Whereas some people dance alone, South Africans dance together.
There are many more children who are starting to move through the education system and develop their lives, however there are also many children who have the potential but are never empowered to use it. All of these children can be anything they want given the correct opportunities. We must never forget that boys from these small South African villages have grown up to lead this country through dramatic struggles and are currently leading it today.
This is neither a call to action nor an intended guilt trip. Much like the concrete huts, this is a scattering of lessons that I learned in abundance by opening up to new South African perspectives and experiences. More than that this is truly a realization that the various layers of South Africa, in all its complexity and diversity, is steeped in ubuntu and community.
Written and Filmed by: Rich Laburn
Photographed by: Kate Groch
Music: Nkinga Ngu R7 by Bhekumuzi Luthuli