By Taliah Williamson (Gianluca’s sister-in-law and founder of Bespoke Ink)

The South African is a remarkable species… much like the mangrove tree.

Atypical of most trees, mangroves have adapted to survive – and thrive – in high salinity and harsh climates including the interminable ebb and flow of the tide.

Our South African roots

Similarly, the people of South Africa are forged from an extraordinary system that firmly roots them into their homeland soil keeping them grounded, humble, and undeniably adaptable in even the most unforgiving of environments.

As a third-world country, one tends to expect that our African citizenry experiences trials and tribulations of relatively larger proportions than our first-world ‘superiors’. Whilst such assumptions might very well ring true, what the rest of the globe doesn’t realise is the monumental character we’re compelled to cultivate owing to these obstacles.

It’s rarely easy living in SA: from crime, corruption, mismanagement, poverty, power, an imminent water crisis – the list goes on. It remains a constant struggle to keep one’s faith – and cellphone battery – alive. 

There are days of gloom, months of grieving, and decades of instability, yet throughout these uncertainties, one constant remain abundantly clear – the overwhelming sense of resilience and heart that marks the distinctive signature of a “SAFFA”.

Shades of Hope

Resilience emanates from adversity and the need to ceaselessly adapt to change. Always expecting the unexpected. It’s taking what is thrown at you and turning lemons into lemonade, or in our case – pineapples into beer – thanks COVID!

Every day, the average South African is confronted with a choice: To be defeated by or to sidestep and overcome the minefields. The thing is, the former really isn’t part of our vocabulary. As such, our rainbow nation is amongst the most improvising and innovative in the world.

Some instances that come to mind…

  • The businesses – both big and small – inventively navigating the economic and political turmoil consistently launched at them yet surviving – and many prospering through it all…
  • The unwavering will of our people to get to work by means of notoriously reckless means of transport. Many people fear for their lives and whether they’ll see their loved ones again with every ride…
  • The homeless comically direct traffic when robots are out of service…
  • The entertainers dressed to the nines and the window wipers at our intersections trying to make an extra buck…
  • Children and students across the nation have to study by candlelight late into the night…
  • The domestic workers tirelessly raise their employers’ children to feed their own thousands of kilometres away…
  • The unflinching and sought-after work ethic that global conglomerates frequently headhunt us for…
  • Every South African who is able to fend for and protect themselves in lieu of a government that won’t…

While the above is merely the tip of the iceberg, each of these acts takes immense amounts of inventiveness, gumption, persistence, and strength – all of which are fundamental hallmarks of the South African breed.

Souls of Substance

South Africans have hearts! 

As in most cases, a country’s governmental body is meant to protect its citizens, the children, and the lifeblood of its nation. 

However, our people have given up on the state as a protector and have taken matters into their own hands. 

Following the devastating looting in Gauteng and KZN that ensued last year, our people rallied together as one, protecting their communities, sweeping the trash-filled streets, fixing broken windows of stores they don’t even own or frequent along with surreptitiously pouring oil on the floors of shopping malls to deter looters from wrecking further unchecked havoc due to an absent defense force… And the initiative #rebuilsouthafrica was born.

Looking on the comical side is engrained in our South African mindset. 

Be it a coping mechanism, an outlet for the emotional, financial, and often physical turmoil endured, if you will, our nation’s people unfailingly demonstrate an astonishing capacity to transform a depraved situation into something ingeniously satirical, leaving anyone au courant in peals of laughter.

I believe there exists an irrefutable and inherent spirit of unwavering hope, courage, and heart within each South African. 

A sixth sense that empowers each of us to get up from the fall, dust our knees off, rise above the unrest, lift each other up and keep going – onwards and upwards. 

We should be so proud to be able to pass this legacy on to our future generations. It’s precious and it’s in a class of its own. It can’t be traded nor snatched away from us by any means. It’s inherent within our makeup.

To our late brother, Johnny Clegg, I found the spirit of the great heart, and it was here under the African sky all along…