Tuesday, May 31, 2005

“Each mans memory is his private literature”

This article was one witten at the height of the political change in South Africa. The first democratic elections followed CODESA, the congress for a democratic South Africa, which met to hammer out a roadmap for change. Thereafter the Truth and reconcilliation commission (TRC) did remarkable work to reconcile victim and perpetrator. For many reasons South Africa never had a Nuremburg. One of the key reasons was that those who perpetrated injustice were still (and to some extent still are) in positions of power. Given this backdrop, this article concerns the trend toward cultural tourism, a growing worldwide phenomenen.


Do you remember a time, not so long ago, when television would close down for the night.
I distinctly recall during CODESA one, early one mildly anaesthetic morning, hearing a rather unusual announcement:

“ In the interests of national unity, we will end our broadcast with the national anthem, “Die Stem” sung to the tune of “Nkosi siekelela”, with “hold him down you Zulu warriors” as chorus.”

The maxim “ the only constant there is, is change”, has never been more applicable. As we speak there is a sense of urgency as the validity of South Africa’s history in its entirety, is being reread with a fine tooth comb and rewritten from a new perspective. An important part of this will be the emphasis paid to cultural recognition and traditions.

Developing a South African memory is key to forging any meaningful sense of this land of contradictions, in which we find ourselves living and guiding.There can be few things more exciting than an enthusiastic storyteller telling of the Python of Lake Fundudzi in Venda or the mystical tale of the Nya Nya Bulembu of Swazi Legend.

From further back in the distant past, is a great story, (complete with illustrations) for telling at night around the campfire. Look carefully at the Southern Cross and across to its pointers and the shapely head and neck of a giraffe should emerge......(This may require some imagination).The San believed that the Southern Cross, and its pointers, form part of the special place God gave to the giraffe in order to thank him for holding up the sky while it was being formed and painted. .Linking such powerful imagery with enthusiasm and understanding, can only add spice to any commentary.

According to SATOUR up to 17% of visitors coming into the country were attracted to the country by an interest in activities aimed at experiencing South Africa’s different cultures. This was consistent from 1995 through to 1997 (January) while it increased in August.

SATOUR is not the only organisation spearheading the drive towards cultural tourism. The University of Pretoria recently announced the launch of a new B.A. degree in Cultural Tourism and Heritage. While breaking new ground , the course is more important in that it recognises the global trend towards cultural tourism. After all what would England be without the Royal family? ....interesting thought.... Certainly for many closet royalists, including my mother, AD has come to stand for “After Diana”.

For the most part, the tourist guide, whether a normal, specialist guide or a field guide, is primarily an interpreter of his surroundings. This is true for cultural guides. Ubuntu and its implications are a good place to start for any guide tryng to unravel the complexities of the South African Big picture.
As the TRC hearings of key journalists this last month demonstrated, there are some positive results of change:At least now we dont have to try to convince the world that the good thing about Apartheid was that it recognised that democracy was too good to be shared with everybody.

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