What have you found to be culturally or artistically significant with this place you visited?
Artistically, South Africa is a photographer’s paradise. From beautiful landscapes in KwaZulu, homeland of Shaka Zulu to the monuments of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, the cityscape of Johannesburg is stunning. I was left in awe of how South Africa used its colorful history to build the country and create an educational environment not just for tourists but for its own people. My experience in this beautiful country was nothing short of amazing, I visited the US Embassy with my group, attended a lecture delivered by the Afro-Middle East Center - a think-tank that aims to foster and produce quality research on the Middle East, took a tour through Johannesburg, visited African Center for the Constructive Resolutions of Disputes - ACCORD for another lecture, Durban - the Miami of South Africa and Soweto where I enjoyed traditional South African dinner and danced the night away to traditional music.
These beautiful experiences however did not shut my eyes to the fact that while apartheid had ended and there have been positive improvements in the country, the lasting effects of apartheid still plague the country. Given South Africa’s historic struggle and final breakthrough under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, I expected a peaceful and burgeoning nation but the reverse was the case. Yes, apartheid has only been eradicated for a few decades; the transition will definitely be gradual. What struck me the most was the injustice to the indigenous people, the lack of voice and the inequality that black people face in their own country and on their own continent.
The political climate at the moment is quite similar to the United States of America. There is demand for the current president to step down, yet the other democratic parties are unfavorable to the people. It reminded me of the divisiveness of the of the 2016 United States Presidential Election and the statement a lot of people - including myself - made, “to pick the lesser of two evils.” However, it now seems America did select the worst of two evils, given the outcry from the citizens. South Africa also struggles with accepting its current president - Jacob Zuma who is allegedly quite corrupt and its citizens have demanded he step down. No progress has been made in that respect, quite similar to the United States.
This beautiful country is yet to heal from the scars of apartheid and for a lot of people it feels like they are reliving it. With expensive tuition for children whose parents lived under apartheid and inability to get jobs due to lack of proper education, the system is failing them all over again. But, there is hope. We visited universities and spoke to passionate students who want to be the change in their country. They are conscious and critical of their government and are taking steps to improve their environment. They are living up to the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi, who spent a good portion of his life in South Africa, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Check out the video that goes along with Elizabeth's experience here. Video by Samantha Cox-Parra.