Monday, May 6, 2013

Week 16: Exploring Identity

Post by Dani Minsky

Students toured Robben Island prison while in Cape Town
Identity – a word that seems to resonate with people in many different ways, for some it can be a purpose or meaning, for others it can be a solution, and for some it can be a much deeper question that festers hidden down inside, asking all the time “Do I belong.” It’s an interesting concept, and one that has been a huge theme ever since arriving here in Cape Town and even back in Namibia. A tearful goodbye was given to Namibia and then off we were to the city whose reputation has not seemed to fail.

Starting at Robben Island, we explored the different sorts of dynamics that existed between the political prisoners and South Africa at the time. One room displayed the process and progression that needed to be taken in order for Namibia to get independence. SWAPO prisoners being held at Robben Island did not want to stand down to the South African government, and wished to pursue personal and public freedoms. To see the pride and perseverance in the Namibian political prisoners' display gave me a sense of belonging and a sense of pride as I dealt with some of my own loss of identity after leaving Namibia. Thinking back on it, I realize I am not a citizen of Namibia, nor do I have any more right to it than any other tourists who have been there for a few months, but the attachment that I have found myself to have is very strong, and will have an enormous influence on the rest of my career choices and life. I wonder to myself, why was something as simple as a display able to bring me back to reality and realize that I really am about to go back to America, and although this was an amazing experience, I do now have to figure out what to do with all the knowledge I have gained from it.
Namibians were also held on Robben Island

In our final history classes we focused on identity and what it means to the individual. It is interesting to recall some of the discussion and see how it applies to what we have experienced in Cape Town. After visiting places such as Manenberg, the District Six Museum, and the Slave Lodge, it has become more apparent how much identity shapes our society and world. It is evident that having a sense of belonging is powerful, and when giving people a sense of power, community, or togetherness, the identity and unity aspects are what make people see, hear, and understand as they do. When looking at these key concepts it is also interesting to think back on some of the information given to us by a Principal in Manenberg, and also the Pastor we spoke with at the Central Methodist Church. In places that there is so much diversity and call for integration, there is so much segregation displayed. The principal for instance, informed us that even though schools are open to all, there is still no doubt that his school will only attract a certain population. On the same note, the pastor spoke about the challenges between rich and poor in his own church and community. He admits to the gap, and still continues to be puzzled with how to fix such a large power struggle.  

A view of Cape Town from Robben Island
Coming to Africa was a whirlwind experience, pushing me to think outside of the box, pushing me to question everything I believe, pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and pushing me to look at new perspectives. In a way it has helped me establish my own identity and decide what qualities I want to posses and what kind of person I want to be seen as. Having such a huge switch from Windhoek to Cape Town has been a challenge, but yet again, the challenges teach us the most. If anything the concept and theme of identity has started to paint a fuller picture in my life and it will be a painting that will take a long time to finish, but the foundation it is built on has immensely been influenced by the lessons learned in Namibia and in Cape Town. The learning process is endless and until my own definition of identity is clearly displayed, the examples and history taught to me will only help me along my journey.

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ayu darmayanti said...
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