n African Renaissance - South Africa and the new Africa : chasing African rainbows

Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


Africa, Africanness and the African have always been subjected to brutal stereotypes - the 'dark continent', conflict-ridden, underdeveloped and beyond hope. For decades Africa has been trapped in its own middle ages, unable to overcome not only the internal politics of identity, but also the struggle to reconstruct its perceived identity outside the continent. Small successes are always overshadowed by the general despair that the continent finds itself in. Nowhere on the continent has this politics of identity been more prominent than in South Africa, during the pre- and post-apartheid eras. Identity, in the form of race, was at the core of the apartheid state's existence. With its relatively peaceful transition to democracy, it had the opportunity to reconstruct its identity, internally and externally, although this was not an easy task and is still a work in progress. According to Bekker (2001:2) at present there appears to be no current elegant theory on the construction and elaboration of ethnic identities which may be applied across countries cultures and continents. Another argument held forth is that ethnic identities- are constructed and manipulated, not "given". Though they may often be considered and even experienced as ascribed, this does not detract from their constructed nature. For some scholars, identity refers to "people's source of meaning and experience" and to "the process of construction of meaning on the basis of (culture)". South Africa has taken on the mammoth task of identity construction. Despite pressing demands to pay attention to the domestic issues of nation-building and redistributing the benefits of the new political system to all its citizens, it nevertheless took on the complex task of championing not only its own interests, but also giving a new vision to the whole continent.

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