Letter of Love | Open Letter
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Jacqui Mansfield’s open letter on Heritage Day celebrates the unique beauty, diversity, and quirks of South Africa, capturing the nation’s essence in all its rich complexity.

 

Johannesburg, South Africa (25 September 2023) – Heritage Day is a day to celebrate all of South Africa – the beauty, the challenges, the diversity, and the unity. It’s a day to appreciate the deep blue skies, the eclectic dance moves of its people, the anticipation of rain, and the heavenly scent that follows the first drops on the dry earth. It’s a day to revel in the golden streets of Joburg after a thunderstorm and to remember that, despite our differences, there is more that unites us than divides us.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an open letter that perfectly encapsulates the essence of this extraordinary nation. Having explored the far reaches of the globe, the author’s words ring true: there truly is nowhere on Earth quite like South Africa.

The open letter, written by Jacqui Mansfield (Thompson), is a heartfelt tribute to the diversity and richness that defines this beautiful country. It’s a love letter to the people, the landscapes, and the quirks that make South Africa special.

Heritage Day!

Written by Jacqui Mansfield (Thompson), author, adventurer, arctophilist, anti-supremist, Afro-Celt.

Today is Heritage Day in South Africa. Having travelled to Antarctica and the Arctic Circle, Vancouver Island and Vietnam and many places in between, there is nowhere in the world like this beautiful country.

Heritage Day here is scented. Clouds of dusky pink Syringa blossoms, Jasmine and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Budleja and a smattering of sweet thorn acacias. A mishmash of foreign and indigenous plants – much like the people of South Africa, a medley of different cultures and languages.

Conversations with people create a mosaic of experiences and glimpses into different lives. Thank you to everyone who makes every day here unforgettable for the right and wrong reasons. Car guards with MBAs, gogos raising their grandkids – and often other people’s too – on nothing but a government grant. People from elsewhere on the continent carrying the hopes of struggling families on their shoulders. Tailors who’ve walked south with their sewing machines. A girl from Limpopo who wants to be an internationally famous singer. Vincent, the Rastafarian, who lives under the bridge near my cottage. Angie, who creates designer kotas.

Only in South Africa could people go to the office dressed to represent their heritage. My Afrikaans friend dressed like a church-going tannie in a conservative dress and hat bedecked with flowers to recall her childhood spent warming the benches in the NG Kerk. Her colleagues thought she was ‘doing’ Queen Elizabeth. Oh, the irony.

This is the land of Peppermint Crisp and minion-sized pterodactyls. Fact: only extremely homesick South Africans love the dulcet screeching of hadedas. It’s a land with crazy drivers; none more so than well-groomed women in 4x4s the size of small buildings. Fearless taxi drivers with praying passengers and cursing fellow road users. A country of arbitrary traffic rule adherence and the occasional functioning robot. Hardworking salespeople manning the major intersections and locals who can explain the difference between now, now- now and just now. It’s where you can spot a delivery scooter (complete with grocery store branded box) rider competing at a drag racing event.

We have uKhahlamba aka the Drakensberg – the heaven-piercing mountains so formidable they hide an entire country. Beautiful white broekie-laced beaches stretching for hundreds and hundreds of kilometres fringing our shoreline. We have serious wildlife that can kill you properly. We have (had) an Oscar-winning octopus that made the world cry. We have the snazziest flag, and, hopefully soon, the best rugby team in the world.

It’s also the land many are leaving for a brighter (yes, that was a nod to loadshedding and the economy) future that’s safer (hello, Mr Police Minister) and cleaner (uh-huh Pikitup and all citizens). We fill potholes on public roads, share water if we have boreholes, we make damn good traffic wardens even if intoxicated and/or homeless. We must have the slimmest waists in the world as we tighten our belts another notch, check our sofas for any forex, wonder if we could cycle to work after the latest fuel hike, and vasbyt with that uniquely South African combination of tenacity and humour.

But for today, Heritage Day, I’m choosing to focus on what makes my heart happy to be here.

Deep blue expansive skies, white people (still) dancing (badly) to Nkalakatha, the expectation of rain and that heavenly scent as the first raindrops kiss or hammer the dry earth. How Joburg dazzles when the sun shines after a 4pm thunderstorm and the streets really do look like they are paved with gold.

Knowing there is more that unites us than can divide us.

Yesterday is finished and klaar, today is a beautiful sunny day and tomorrow the rains may come.


Sources: Jacqui Thompson | Open letter 
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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