2013 'til Infinity: Born-Free South Africa

Two decades after Apartheid was dismantled, we catch up with the born-free generation

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Photography by Uma Ramiah

Bouncing off the print issue's 93 Till Infinity takeover, this week on Dazed Digital we are publishing five articles looking at how the events of 1993 impacted today's world – and where the ripples from that tumultuous year are headed.

Yesterday we kicked off with an interview with two newly weds, the first gay couple married at a US Amy base, 20 years on from Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Later, expect pieces on the birth of a J-pop icon, the legacy of the Yugoslav War and the future of the WWW. South Africans around 20 are the first generation brought up free from Apartheid's chains. Chido-Vanessa Dandajena is features editor of Live Magazine South Africa, a youth-run media NGO, and here she tells us why her Born Free generation fills her with hope for the future.

We barely escaped the harsh realities faced by our forefathers during apartheid. A regime founded on racial segregation, moral degradation, discrimination and suppression. We were fortunate enough to be born into a democratic South Africa.

South Africa's apartheid history will always be remembered by those who survived it, but its future will be determined by those who choose to move past it. The term “Born-Free’’ refers to a generation of South Africans born in or after 1994 when South Africa first received democracy. Although being a Born-Free means not having experienced the apartheid regime, it does not imply an exclusion from the aftershocks of apartheid, such as racial tensions, affirmative action, an expansive income gap and poverty. To say South Africa is a rainbow nation of equal opportunity would be a somewhat romanticized notion, considering the unfortunate plight of residents living in townships in self-made shacks and box-shaped houses composed of tin and without proper sanitation, plumbing and in some cases, electricity. During apartheid, urban areas usually built on the periphery were reserved for non-whites; these were called townships or locations. Townships like Gugulethu and Khayelitsha in Cape Town still exist all over South Africa being largely occupied by non-white residence of the lowest income group. Despite this, it would be unfair to disregard the efforts that have been essential to the progress we’ve made as a young nation in our nineteen years of democracy.

You need only look as far as the Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans list to be convinced of the marvellous hurdles we've overcome. This list boasts of 200 young and diverse South Africans making headway in various industries including civil society, media, law and arts and culture. Amongst these names include: Founder and CEO of HeadHoncho lifestyle brand, Nick Kaoma; DJ, recording artist and presenter Sbusiso Leope (aka DJ Sbu); and head of DA parliamentary research and communications Phumzile Van Damme. Track back nineteen years ago and a list of accomplished multi-racial young South Africans would be unheard of.

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Photography by Uma Ramiah

Nelson Mandela's illness has stirred up many a conversation regarding the future of the country and what changes may take place upon his inevitable passing. The different opinions best reflect the nation’s divided perspectives of the future of South Africa. Some predict a genocide or ethnic cleansing, some raise the point that the country's international significance will drop and others perceive an improved political atmosphere where the survivors of apartheid do not feel obligated to stay loyal to the ANC for the sake of Nelson Mandela. From where I sit, at a magazine publication in the midst of a group of talented young South Africans, I think ''endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame'' (Romans 5:4). The potential we possess and the challenges we’ve faced will strengthen and inspire us to reach our goals, no matter how difficult that may appear.

We have so much to look forward to and even more to be grateful for. Our forefathers carried the burden of apartheid, while this generation bears a different burden – the hopes and dreams of those who fought and endured for what we have today, all nationalities included. The difference is that we possess a unified responsibility to ensure that the past isn't repeated, and to build on the progress that our country has made. The most exciting part is that most of us are willing and more of us are seeing the need to work, take personal responsibility for our future and make a collective effort to ensure a more hopeful future for all.

This future is grounded in education. As the saying goes, “You can give a man fish and feed him for a day, or teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Education, both institutional and practical, is essential in ensuring the sustainable development of a young nation. It is central to the country’s progression, economically, socially, and politically. The necessary task of bridging the gap of illiteracy is riddled with challenges.  Whole generations have been subjected to inadequate systems, left with negative effects not easily erased.  Now this country faces the task of allocating the appropriate amount of resources towards quality education.

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Photography by Uma Ramiah

Despite these challenges, young South Africans continue to seek out opportunities to educate each other and themselves through NGO initiatives such as IkamvaYouth (an organization facilitating peer to peer tutoring for young people across South Africa), Live Magazine (a youth-created media platform offering on the job training for young people) and community-based initiatives such as EachOneTeachOne which facilitates peer-based education.

With the nation in our hands, hope in our hearts, opportunities at our doorstep and a world of onlookers, the youth of South Africa have gigantic-sized shoes to fill, but we’re filling those shoes our own way. We’re carving a new path for ourselves, a path built on learning from our significant past and leading to a successful future.

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