Ek is Afrikaans. I am African. Very few people realize that the word ‘afrikaans’ literally means african.
I love South Africa. I was born here and I feel my roots here. I am white, but this is my home country. My parents were born here. My grandparents were born here. I am African.
I do find parts of my heart resonate with Europe, undeniably. I have been there three times and I certainly have some close-to-my-heart memories. I cherish the Buen Retiro Park in Madrid. The whole city seemed asleep at 08:00 one August morning so I discovered my way to the park and spent a sunny, solitary hour there. The next lovely morning I opened my eyes in a Copenhagen loft, looked out and saw a cluster of tall white windmills (standing in water!) just outside my window. That was so foreign and so Scandinavian I caught my breath. Then there is the romantic Saar Loop in Germany, and the nautical Afsluitdijk in Holland.
I understand the language of Germans and the Dutch and Belgians. But I am not German. Or Dutch. Or Belgian. I am African.
I love listening to Zulu choirs and singing along when I can. I love the quiet mist of the Kwazulu Natal midlands and the thunderous storms of Pretoria where the raindrops are so fat they literally pelt the pavement. When I was given the opportunity to study abroad, absolutely inviting as that sounded, I didn’t. I studied five kilometres from the house I grew up in, at UP.
And my who-I-am memories are here. The experiences that make up the fibers of my mind, were had here. Nature’s Valley. My family has visited Nature’s Valley every December from when I was still in school. I have so many happy memories of the beach, Douwurmkop, the lagoon and Klippiesbaai that I go there in my mind when I hurt the most. When I want to escape, I escape to Nature’s Valley.
Next, the Drakensberg. I love Cathkin Peak. For our first wedding anniversary Martin and I climbed all the way to Blind Man’s Corner. And in later years my own young family more than once rested and drank in the beauty in the shadow of Cathkin.
The strongest 20 years of my life were spent among the huts of rural KwaZulu-Natal. Hundreds of little Zulu children learned the sounds of English in my lessons. I have served dignified ndabezithas on my knees. I sat with the women on icansis while the men ate at table. I did it by choice and I loved it. I don’t live like that in my own home, but I feel close to those who do.
What is my heritage? What happens to European genes that spend three generations in Africa? The braai and the rugby, yes. And so, so much more.